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.