The Pittsburgh Penguins, winners of the previous two Stanley Cups, will be at home watching from the comfort of their own living rooms for the first time in three summers.
As a Pittsburgh sports fan for nearly 40 years, there’s only one thing I can say about all of that:
MATT MURRAY WON THOSE TWO STANLEY CUPS WITH MARC-ANDRE FLEURY’S PLAYERS PLAYING IN FRONT OF HIM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In case you didn’t know, Fleury, the long-time Penguins goalie and popular player with the fans, was lost to the Golden Knights in the expansion draft last summer. In Fleury’s absence the Pens put all of their eggs in Murray’s basket, a goalie who’s 10 years younger and was in net for each of those aforementioned Stanley Cup championships.
Actually, after stepping in for the injured Fleury at the outset of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs and riding a hot streak all the way to a title, Murray was the starting goalie in 2016/2017. Sure, Marc-Andre won nine postseason games in place of Murray en route to a second-straight Cup last summer, but given the differences in age and salary, it was a no-brainer to let Fleury walk and make Murray the goaltender of the future.
Only problem with that is, the Penguins didn’t win a third-straight Cup. Meanwhile, with Fleury leading the way, the Golden Knights have become the single-best story in hockey, advancing to their first Final in their first-ever season.
You know what that means, right?
The Penguins should have kept Fleury.
At least that’s what the fans have been saying in the wake of the Penguins’ elimination in six games by the Capitals in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, a result that has been blamed mostly on Murray.
I find this kind of funny.
Remember how I said Fleury was a popular player with the fans? Yes he was, but during the majority of his 13 years in Pittsburgh, it was also quite popular to blame him for everything that had to do with the team not winning enough titles (even after he won a Stanley Cup in 2009).
He couldn’t win the big game. He was a head case. His save percentage was sub-standard for an elite goalie. He gave up too many soft goals — on and on and on.
For years, people questioned Fleury’s status as a top goalie and wondered if it would be a good idea to get rid of him.
Which, as I already stated, the Penguins did, but not until after he rode off into the sunset with two more Stanley Cups (even if, again, he wasn’t in net for either).
Which brings me to the topic of the Steelers (I know, it’s a Steelers site, right?) and the ongoing love affair fans have with Bill Cowher, a guy who managed to irk us so much for the majority of his 15 years as head coach of the team.
The Chin couldn’t win the big game. He was always out-coached. He was no Bill Belichick. He was horrible at clock management. He was a players’ coach. He loved the veterans too much. His game-day strategy left a lot to be desired — on and on and on.
For years, people questioned Cowher’s status as a top head coach and wondered if it would be a good idea to get rid of him.
Which, as you you know, the Steelers did (not really, he resigned), but not before he rode off into the sunset with two Lombardi Trophies (even if he wasn’t on the sidelines for the second one).
Back to Murray.
You know why Murray performed so well during the previous two seasons? He performed so well because hockey players tend to play less aggressively when they have an inferior goaltender behind them, which, as you know, since he’s at home and Fleury is in the Final, Murray was.
Back to the Steelers.
Taking Cowher’s place as head coach of the Steelers the past 11-plus seasons has been Mike Tomlin, a man who inherited a talented team and rode it to a Super Bowl title in only his second season.
At least that’s what fans have been saying for the majority of Tomlin’s tenure.
Back to Murray.
He has never been able to play a full season due to injuries. He also gives up too many glove-hand goals. Also, did I mention he has yet to prove he can win a title without Fleury backing him up?
Back to Tomlin.
Coach T can’t win the big game. He’s always out-coached. He isn’t Bill Belichick. He’s horrible at clock management. He’s a players’ coach. His game-day strategy leaves a lot to be desired. Also, did I mention he has yet to win a Super Bowl without Cowher’s players?
If only Fleury were still around, the Penguins would be going for their third-straight title.
If only Cowher were still around, the Steelers would be going for what, like one for the big toe on their right foot?
Pittsburgh sports fans, they sure are predictable.