Friday, May 18, 2018

Confessions of a Marc-Andre Fleury fanboy

By Tim Benz
May 17, 2018

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury makes a save against the Winnipeg Jets during the third period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey playoffs Western Conference finals, Wednesday, May 16, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

I've been called a Marc-Andre Fleury "honk." A "Flower Fanboy." A "media friend of MAF."
I've also been called a helluva lot worse. Probably 100 times today. Check my Twitter mentions.
Sports journalism should be fair. Not antiseptic. Especially if you are on the opinion-giving end of the business. If you can't allow yourself to express a little extra happiness for players who deserve it when they succeed, then you're cheating the fans who should have that element of the story conveyed.
Frankly, a lot of those tags regarding my opinions of Fleury are true. I was a fan of his on and off the ice. Maybe more than any athlete I've covered. When media people tell you they "don't have favorites," they are lying. Maybe to themselves.
In the sports media, playing favorites is wrong. Having favorites, though, is human nature.
So now that Fleury has become the feel-good story of the 2018 playoffs in Las Vegas, I'm unashamed to say I'm loving every minute.
If I did play favorites, I'd conveniently write the Penguins screwed up by letting him go to Vegas and they kept the wrong goalie in Matt Murray.
Well, take this as a confession from a "Fleury fanboy." I still think the Penguins kept the right goalie.
If Fleury goes on to win the Stanley Cup this year — and maybe in future seasons — I'll revise that statement.
I'm not going to revise history, though. Others are doing that.
I've been sitting on this take for a while, but I truly believe that the Penguins messed up by protecting Murray over Fleury
Pittsburgh should've kept Fleury -- who is off to the conference finals. @GoldenKnights gain I guess.
Fleury is a better goalie than Murray. Pens chose the wrong one. End up of story. Good night.
You could have protected Fleury and gave up Matt Murray. It's not the Golden Knights fault the Pens made the wrong choice.
On the series-ending goal by , it was a gem. But would have stopped it. blew it. Half-baked goaltending on the winner.
I know the age differential, but fleury is far better than Murray. That was the wrong call by Pitt.
No, Murray wasn't as stellar as he had been in previous playoffs. His regular season was derailed by injury and the death of his father. His glove remained questionable, his usual sound positioning wasn't as solid, and his uncanny anticipation wasn't what we've come to know.
Murray committed the criminal act of being the second-best goalie in a playoff series. Ask Fleury how that goes over with the public in this town.
Meanwhile, Fleury has been even better during this playoff run for the Golden Knights than he was last season in place of Murray. Fleury's goals-against average, record, save percentage and shutout total are all better than what they were through three games of the conference finals.
That's when he got benched for Murray in 2017, with many — myself included — touting him as the Penguins' Conn Smythe favorite to that point.
As a result, a segment of the fan base is saying if Fleury had stayed and Murray would've been let go, the Penguins would've beaten the Capitals.
I get the premise that Fleury, being the more athletic of the two goalies and playing at top form, might have done a better job against some of those odd-man rushes Washington enjoyed.
If you could magically transpose Fleury's performance while breaking the space-time continuum, then yes, the Penguins would've beaten the Capitals.
All that's great for Fleury, and I hope he wins the Cup again.
None of that means Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford should've kept him instead of Murray. Anyone you hear shouting that at a bar, on social media or on the bus is either using hindsight and mouthing off, or never has been in a position of making a big-picture decision.
There isn't a general manager in the world who would've cut ties with a 23-year-old goalie who was 6 for 6 in playoff series with two Cups under his belt for a 32-year-old who had two years left on his contract.
That was a contract, by the way, which was $2 million more than Murray's and included no-trade language. Keep in mind, the Penguins were so tight against the cap that even with those savings, they still had to let the likes of Ron Hainsey, Chris Kunitz, Matt Cullen, Trevor Daley and Nick Bonino walk away in the offseason.
The ultimate cop-out cliche in the sports opinion game is: Time will tell.
Time will tell if Murray has another Cup run in him. I think he does. Patrick Roy needed six seasons before he won a second title after getting one during his first year. How about giving this kid a few more kicks at the can to see if he can earn a third, eh?
Time already has told us the Penguins gave away a great goalie with plenty left in the tank.
And we don't need time to tell us the Penguins used the right logic in making the decision they did, even if the result looks questionable in its first 10 months.
Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @TimBenzPGH.

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