Fleury trying not to think about if this is his last run with Penguins

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PITTSBURGH — With Matt Murray reclaiming his starting spot in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ net, the topic of Marc-Andre Fleury‘s future with the team was again a talking point during Sunday’s Stanley Cup Final media day.

Specifically, whether or not this series against the Nashville Predators will be his final games with the only NHL team he has ever known.

Given the expansion draft situation this summer, as well as the fact Murray has clearly passed him in the eyes of the coaching staff, it seems even more inevitable than ever that his time with the team is limited.

On Sunday, he was asked if he ever lets his mind go there and think about it.

“I try not to,” said Fleury. “I try to live, day-by-day, go like that. We will see what happens at the end of the season.”

For Fleury, the circumstances for his status as Murray’s backup are vastly different from a year ago when he started the playoffs on the bench due to injury and, outside of one Game in the Eastern Conference Finals, never really had an opportunity to contribute to the team’s playoff run.

That has not been the case this year.

Fleury has not only been a major contributor, he is probably the single biggest reason they escaped the first two rounds against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals.

He was also asked if it would be easier to potentially leave Pittsburgh after this season having been able to contribute to a deep playoff run after not really getting a chance to play a year ago.

“Yeah, those are memories I will always keep,” said Fleury. “The support from the fans, the atmosphere in the building, the fun I had winning those games. But still another championship would be even better.”

His play through the first two rounds is what made Mike Sullivan’s decision to go back to Murray such a bold — and even controversial — move.

Fleury was not only playing extremely well, he was playing what was perhaps the best hockey of his career. Given that performance, along with the fact Murray had not played in more than a month due to injury, it was a move that most coaches probably would not have made.

“The decision that was made in goal was a very difficult decision,” said Sullivan on Sunday.  “Our coaches discussed it at length. That was a very difficult decision because we have so much respect for both players. Both of these goaltenders that we have are Stanley Cup-winning goaltenders. I’ve said all year long that we believe that we have two No. 1 goalies. That’s a unique challenge to our team, because most teams don’t have that.”

He continued: “Part of my responsibility is to try to decide which guy on a particular game is going to give this team the best chance to win. There are a lot of factors that go into it. Quite honestly, I like to keep those decisions within the confines of our hockey team. But there are a lot of factors that go into it.”

Fleury was asked on Sunday what the change was like but declined to go into much detail, instead focussing on how much he has enjoyed this postseason.

“I don’t think I want to get into it really,” said Fleury. “I was having a lot of fun winning some games. It’s a coaches decision and I have to respect it.”

“Not being in net I just try to encourage the guys, cheer the guys on and if I ever get another opportunity I will be ready.”

Murray over Fleury? It’s sure looking that way (Update: It’s official)

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Matt Murray was the first goalie off the ice at Pittsburgh’s optional skate ahead of tonight’s Game 4 versus Ottawa.

While that doesn’t make anything official, it does set the stage for a dramatic change in net.

Marc-Andre Fleury, who has started every game for the Pens this postseason, stayed on the ice longer this morning, working out for close to an hour — usually indicative of the extra work a backup traditionally takes before a game.

Update: Pens head coach Mike Sullivan has officially announced that Murray will start, and Fleury will back up. Sullivan said Fleury handled the decision “like the professional that he always is.”

This marks the second consecutive postseason in which Sullivan’s made a bold goalie switch in the conference final.

Last year, in the fifth game against Tampa Bay, Sullivan went to Fleury as his starter after Murray struggled in Game 4. The move didn’t exactly pay off, as Fleury looked somewhat shaky in a 4-3 OT loss, and finished with just 21 saves on 25 shots (.840 save percentage).

In Game 6, the Pens went back to Murray, and he was excellent for the remainder of the series. The Bolts only beat him three times on 47 shots over the final two games, and Murray carried that stellar play over to the Stanley Cup Final, where he posted a .920 save percentage over six games.

Some opined that Sullivan was fortunate his flip-flopping didn’t cost the team.

Milbury, Jones would start Murray over Fleury for Penguins in Game 4

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Mike Sullivan hasn’t tipped his hand yet regarding whether Marc-Andre Fleury or Matt Murray will be the Pittsburgh Penguins’ starter against the Ottawa Senators for Game 4.

Strategically, it would make sense for him to play coy even if he knows.

If he really doesn’t, that would be understandable, too. Murray missed a huge chunk of playoff time because of an injury, and during that span, Fleury’s been mostly outstanding.

Mike Milbury has advice for Sullivan: don’t be sentimental. The Penguins might need a boost, and Murray seems more likely to provide that edge; both Milbury and Keith Jones agree that Murray is the best choice for Game 4.

That contest will air at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN on Friday. You can also watch it online and via the NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream link.

Fleury, Murray and Sullivan all mum on Game 4 starter

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Pens head coach Mike Sullivan said he needed to sleep on his decision for a starting goalie in Friday’s Game 4 versus Ottawa.

So he did.

But the night of rest didn’t change his stance on divulging information.

Sullivan wouldn’t say if Marc-Andre Fleury or Matt Murray would get the call tomorrow, per Sportsnet. Murray relieved Fleury 12:52 into the first period of last night’s contest, after Fleury allowed four goals on nine shots.

Murray finished with 19 saves on 20 shots in an eventual 5-1 loss.

Just to add to today’s intrigue, neither goalie would divulge who gets the next start (per Pens Inside Scoop). But there was a sign of where the decision might be heading at Thursday’s practice — Fleury had his own net, while Murray and third-stringer Tristan Jarry shared the other.

Fleury has been terrific this postseason, which is why Sullivan could be inclined to stick with him. It’s also worth noting that Fleury’s done an excellent job of bouncing back from tough outings. In Round 1, he gave up five goals in a Game 4 loss to Columbus, then stopped 49 shots for a win in Game 5.

Against Washington in Round 2, he was beaten five times on 26 shots in Game 6. He then posted a 29-save shutout in Game 7.

 

Fleury or Murray for Penguins in Game 4? Sullivan won’t say

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If Mike Sullivan knows who he’ll choose to start in net for the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final, he’s not telling.

Sullivan claimed that he hadn’t given much thought to Matt Murray vs. Marc-Andre Fleury shortly after the Ottawa Senators dominated the Penguins by a tune to 5-1 in Game 3 on Wednesday.

“I haven’t even given any consideration to that at this point,” Sullivan said. “We give up four goals as quickly as we did, sometimes when you make a change, it’s for more than one reason … It’s a little bit of a wake-up call, I guess, for the whole group.”

Here’s the Senators surge Sullivan was talking about:

Sullivan faces an interesting dilemma. Does he go with:

  • Fleury, who’s been outstanding for the majority of his appearances during these Stanley Cup Playoffs?
  • Or does he choose Murray, the guy who won him a Stanley Cup in 2015-16 and is (seemingly?) slated to be “the guy” for Pittsburgh going forward?

It certainly isn’t the easiest decision to make, and with plenty of stakes as the Senators could put the Penguins on the brink of elimination if they beat them in Game 4.

That contest will air at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can also watch it online and via the NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream link.