PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – I live for controversy — it’s what I do. In a big way, I’m in the controversy business; or at least capitalizing on it.
So as much as it doesn’t make for good talk-show fodder, let me go forward with an undeniable truth right now: Marc-Andre Fleury is the Penguins’ goalie in Game 4.
He has to be.
He should be.
He needs to be
There is no other choice.
Matt Murray isn’t the guy as much as some might be ready to yank Fleury from a net he’s manned so marvelously after having just one hiccup of a period in Game 3 against Ottawa.
There. There you have it.
And it isn’t anything Matt Murray has done or really hasn’t done, but more so the form that Fleury has been on — and the big picture to all of this — since Fleury was hurriedly summoned to start the playoffs when Murray couldn’t go.
Early on Wednesday night inside Canadian Tire Centre in Canada’s capital it was simple to see who would be the better team — aided by a bounce or two — and that Fleury’s night wouldn’t last long. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan mercifully signaled for Fleury to come off the ice after the Senators had scored four times in nine shots against him in a few ticks under 13 minutes.
No Penguins fan envisioned the night going as such.
No Penguins fan envisioned Murray taking his baseball cap off and needing to make 19 saves and then Sullivan, in postgame comments, not committing to a starter for that ultra-pivotal Game 4 on Friday night.
But that’s how it has all shaken out.
Here’s some advice, albeit incredibly unsolicited, for Sullivan: You got to go with Fleury on Friday. Why? Because none of this was on him in Game 3.
This was all an epic breakdown by more than a few defenseman that led to Ottawa grabbing a 2-1 series lead. And, once that snowball began rolling downhill, it was like every Penguins blueliner forgot how to play hockey.
On top of that, to that point, Fleury had saved this team’s backside in these playoffs, with a 2.56 goals against and a .924 save percentage as he’s won all nine of their games.
Has Fleury been at the very, very, very top of his game in these playoffs? At times, yes. At times — especially in the middle of that Washington series — he has not been. But there is positively no questions the Penguins would not be playing right now if it wasn’t for the puck-stopping ability of Fleury over the past few weeks.
So you can run all the Twitter polls you want, have all the bar discussions and water-cooler talk you’d like between now and 8 p.m. on Friday night if it satisfies you. In all of this, there’s a huge truth here: Fleury has to be the guy in Game 4. It really isn’t even a question.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his bio here.