Adam Crowley

Adam Crowley

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It's wrong to characterize Murray's struggle as "just one scrimmage"

I love Matt Murray. I want to see the Penguins win, and he's helped them hoist the Stanley Cup a couple of times. I'll never forget his contribution to this organization.

But, the time for sentimentality is over. It's up to Mike Sullivan to play the best goalie.

On Sunday, Murray gave up seven goals in the Penguins intra-squad scrimmage. Sure, he was playing against the Pens' top two lines including Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. But is Montreal only going to roll its bottom two lines in the upcoming playoff series? I don't think so.

The performance in the Sunday scrimmage comes on the heels of a not-so-great start for the Penguins netminder in the first few days of practice.

Fans have called for Murray to be benched in favor of Tristan Jarry. Does one bad scrimmage justify his removal from the Penguins' net?

Of course not! But here's what people are missing: If Murray doesn't start game one against Montreal, it will be because he has struggled in camp AND because he's been inconsistent for the better part of the last few years.

Through his first 15 games in 2018, Murray had a .902 save percentage. He was a rock for the Penguins in March before the team stumbled in the playoffs against the New York Islanders. It was an up and down season.

This year, well, he's been mostly down. Murray has just an .899 save percentage and a 2.87 goals against average. Yikes!

So, it's not just "one bad scrimmage" that could cost Murray the net. It's a couple of years of so-so work.

If Murray continues his struggles in camp, Mike Sullivan needs to do what's best for the hockey club. He's got to play Tristan Jarry.

Jarry was 20-12-1 this year with a .921 save percentage and a 2.43 goals against average. He was named an All-star.

What about the experience factor? Well, Matt Murray and Jeff Zatkoff didn't have any playoff experience prior to 2016, and Jordan Binnington hadn't played a Stanley Cup Playoff game before last season. Seemed to work out okay for those guys.

None of this would be a big deal if the regular season were lurking after training camp. It's not. The Penguins will have one exhibition game prior to playing the Montreal Canadiens in the qualifying round in a best-of-five series.

If the wrong goalie starts that short series it could be the difference between advancing and going home early. It's not just about one scrimmage. It's about a trend. Matt Murray has been inconsistent the last few seasons and Sunday's intra-squad matchup was just an extension of that fact.

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