Murray goes for third ring


Associated Press

PITTSBURGH

Matt Murray doesn’t keep track of the numbers, which makes it easier for the Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender to not get caught up in them.

His goals-against average? No clue. Save percentage? Nope. Pittsburgh’s record during an occasionally uneven regular season for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions? Give Murray a phone and he’ll probably be able to look it up but otherwise he’s just guessing.

“For a goalie, it’s not based on how many goals you let in or how many goals get past you or don’t or how many saves you make,” Murray said. “It’s not about that. It’s about how you feel.”

And despite a physically and personally draining six months that included multiple extended absences because of injuries and the loss of his father Jim in January, the 23-year-old insists he’ll be ready when the Penguins open the first round of the playoffs against Philadelphia on Wednesday night.

“I still pinch myself every day I get to be a part of something like this,” Murray said. “It’s so exciting. It’s like Christmas.”

Even if Murray’s first full season as Pittsburgh’s firmly established No. 1 goalie hardly felt like a holiday at times. He missed two weeks in November with a lower-body injury.

A concussion suffered after taking a shot off the mask in practice in February cost him another three weeks. He took a leave to be with his family following his father’s death, but returned eager to get back to the rink that he’s long considered a sanctuary.

Murray ended up starting just 45 games and appearing in only 49, the fewest by the Penguins’ top goaltender in a decade. His goals-against average ticked up (2.92) and his save percentage ticked down (.907), both the worst marks of his brief three-year career.

Yet the numbers don’t take into account the occasionally iffy play in front of him, particularly a penalty kill that finished a middling 17th in the NHL.

Yet it’s not the missed backcheck or the inability to get a clear that people notice. It’s when the puck goes in the net.

It’s also, however, why Murray declines to get caught up in his stats. Feel free to point them out. Just don’t be offended when he deletes them immediately. The only shot that matters isn’t the last one, but the next one.

“Every single play, every single shift, every single time somebody touches the puck, everything resets,” he said. “What happened before doesn’t matter unless you allow it to.”

Something Murray rarely does, part of his preternatural maturity that led the Penguins to make the difficult but necessary decision to leave Marc-Andre Fleury — the winningest goaltender in franchise history and a wildly popular figure both in the dressing room and the city — exposed to Vegas last summer in the expansion draft.

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