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Steigerwald: Call Me Crazy, But Pens Will Regret Giving Up Fleury

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Marc-Andre Fleury
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 14: Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights poses for his official headshot for the 2017-2018 season on September 14, 2017 at the City National Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images)

Matt Murray and the Penguins needed that.

Imagine the upheaval and angst if the Edmonton Oilers had come into town and hung a five spot on them Tuesday night. After the 7-1 embarrassment in Tampa and replacing their backup goalie with the Baby Penguins’ backup, there was and still is a lot of focus on the Penguins goaltending situation.

I took some heat last week on Twitter for saying that I hadn’t seen anything to change my belief that the player the Penguins would miss the most was Marc-Andre Fleury.

And I still haven’t.

I would have traded Murray for a number one pick and a player or two and kept Fleury. I know that puts me in a tiny minority and maybe out on the fringe with the lunatics but my mind hasn’t been changed on that either.

This is, by no means, taking anything away from Murray or denying his talent. Come on. He won two Stanley Cups as a rookie and there’s a really good chance that he will prove me to be a lunatic.

Everybody knows he’s ridiculously talented. He’s not going to make a lot of acrobatic, highlight reel saves but that’s probably because he’s so good at getting himself into position.

There’s really only one thing we don’t know about him. Can he go wire to wire as the number one guy and win a Cup?

Marc-Andre Fleury did it in 2009 when he was 24. He played in 62 regular season games and 24 playoff games.

Murray has played 102 games in the NHL — 16 more than Fleury played in his first Cup-winning season.

He played 60 games last season — 49 in the regular season and 11 playoff games.

His playoff numbers were ridiculous. A 1.70 goals against average with three shutouts. I would not have replaced Fleury, but only an idiot would argue with Mike Sullivan’s decision to do so after the fact.

Would Murray have been able to put up ridiculous numbers if he had played against the Blue Jackets and the Capitals instead of the Senators and Predators?

He only had to face over 30 shots three times in his 10 starts and the Penguins lost two of them.

Fleury played in 15 playoff games and faced over 30 shots in 11 of them. He stopped 39 out of 40 against Columbus and 49 out of 51 against Washington.

And he stopped all 29 shots in Washington in Game 7.

Fleury also stopped 33 of 35 in an overtime loss to Ottawa in Game 1. Would Murray have been that good for an entire playoff series?

We don’t know.

What we do know is that if Anti Niemi had been the Penguins’ backup goaltender last year they wouldn’t be trying to three-peat this year.

How many games can Murray be expected to play?

How many should the Penguins want him to play.

There was a belief in the organization that Fleury’s playoff performances may have suffered because of the number of games he played.

He played 65 games in 2009-10 and 2010-11 and 67 games in 2011-12.

In 2013-14, when he was 30-years old, Fleury started 64 games and led the league in shutouts with 10.

That’s a lot of good quality work.

Murray has been Hall of Fame good but he’s never played more than 49 games in a regular season. It always makes more sense to keep the young guy and trade the grizzled old veteran when the young guy is playing at a world class level.

With the possible exception of when you’re talking about NHL goaltenders.

They tend to get better with age.  There’s a long list of great goalies who played their best hockey after 30.

Fleury turns 33 next month.

So far this season the Penguins are 6-0-1 with Murray. Tuesday night against Edmonton he was spectacular and may have made the save of the NHL season.

But the Penguins have 19 back-to-back games this season and as of right now they are backing up a goalie, who’s yet to show that he can play more than 60 games, with a 26 year-old AHL back up.

Murray may be making me look like a lunatic for the next 15 years and Fleury may become just another goalie now that he’s with an expansion team, but, as of right now I still think the smart move would have been the bold one.

Trade Murray for a nice package of draft picks and players. Keep Fluery and find a good, proven backup.

Maybe we can re-visit this in May.

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John has over 40 years experience doing just about everything you can do in Pittsburgh sports, including work at KDKA (TV and Radio), WTAE, the Tribune-Review and many more. Author of Just Watch The Game. Columnist and opinion writer here and at Pittsburgh Sports Now. You can regularly find John on Twitter and Facebook.

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