One day, Marc-Andre Fleury will retire – hopefully in a Pittsburgh Penguins uniform. Though that’s probably far down the road, the goaltending future looks bright.
There will come a time where Marc-Andre Fleury will hang up his skates. People will question who will take over his role. The end of the season and this playoff series has shown it’s a tryout between Jeff Zatkoff and Matt Murray.
So, should the Pittsburgh Penguins be worried about their goaltending in the future?
At this moment, no one knows when Fleury will be back in the lineup. He may not even see action against the Rangers. This is bad timing for the Penguins to see how they might be when they won’t have Fleury… but they’re holding up well.
I know it’s not good timing having Fleury sidelined during the playoffs. However, there’s always questions of how he’s going to do in the playoffs. Fleury’s career showing in the postseason has improved in recent years, but before that it was inconsistent. You either get an outstanding goalie or Swiss cheese who has no idea where the puck is.
Luckily, the Pens’ backup goaltenders have stepped up in Fleury’s absence. They are now the first NHL team to have two goaltenders make winning playoff debuts in the same series. Matt Murray even got a shutout in only his second playoff game.
Murray will probably be the go-to goaltender for the Penguins when Fleury retires. He is only 21, and fans and the team love him already. Murray still has time to grow and get more experience at the pro level before Fleury gives up his throne, of course. More than likely he’s the player being groomed to take over.
The Pens sent Tristan Jarry back to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton just before Murray returned. He’s kind of in the same situation as Murray at this moment: Jarry is only 20 years old and will have lots of time to grow and improve his game.
Jeff Zatkoff has been with the team since 2013. He knows the Penguins’ system inside and out, both in Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Though he is the odd man out in this goalie squad, he’s done a great job stepping up when needed and seems to be a fantastic team player.
Zatkoff was outstanding in his first NHL playoff game. He stood on his head and showed that he can be a great goaltender. The second game of the series against the Rangers was bad all around, and not because of him.
It also helps to have a great goaltending coach like Mike Bales. Even though Fleury was sent to see a sport psychologist several years ago in hopes of improving his confidence, Bales has also had an integral role in helping Fleury’s consistency. That’s why GM Jim Rutherford is comfortable having him on the team – if Fleury hadn’t improved after those years of postseason collapses, he might actually be gone by now.
When Fleury will retire is unknown. He could play until he’s in his 40s, as uncommon as that is for goalies, breaking more records and helping his team. Rutherford will surely keep Murray around until it’s his time, but how long will Murray be willing to wait?
As strong as he’s been here and as much playing time as he’s gotten, we may never have to answer that question. As the Pens go forward, a split tandem of goaltenders may be the best solution.