Tag Archives: Matt Murray

Offseason Player Grades: Matt Murray 

Statistics (Regular Season)

49 GP, 32-10-4, 2.41 GAA, .923 SV%, 4 SO

Statistics (Playoffs)

11 GP, 7-3, 1.70 GAA, .937 SV%, 3 SO

Grade: A+

There’s not much you can complain about when it comes to Matt Murray. He has broken records and overcome adversity. He responds to negatives with huge positives. He shut the door on Nashville in the final 2 games to help win back to back cups.

Murray, time and time again, shows us how calm he is in the net. Just look at the Stanley Cup Finals alone. He stole games 1 and 2 for us at home. Then he gets a bit rattled in games 3 and 4. But then he responds by shutting Nashville out in games 5 and 6. He is an amazing goaltender that has shown many flashes of greatness in his young career.

Preview

Murray will be carrying the load for the Penguins again next year. He is already a legendary figure in Pittsburgh hockey. He will continue to grow his legacy as a Penguin and his own greatness. I don’t see Murray declining anytime soon as he is on the up and up. Pittsburgh was very lucky to have two amazing starting goaltenders for two straight Stanley Cup runs. Matt Murray was one of them and therefore a huge reason the Pens repeated as Stanley Cup champions.

Conclusion

Matt Murray is the Pens goaltender going forward as he should be. He has constantly shown his resilience and ability to be one of the greatest goalies to play the game. He plays calm cool and collected and for that reason fans should be excited. AS long and Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, and Murray are here, then expect a chance at winning the cup each year.

COLUMN: The Non-Move That Won The Pens A Cup

Let me start by saying that Sidney Crosby is deserving of the Conn Smythe. I do believe it should’ve gone to Evgeni Malkin but Crosby was just about as equally deserving.

But let’s make no mistake about it, had it been possible to give the Conn Smythe to a split tandem of Pittsburgh goaltenders, there’s no doubt in my mind they were the club’s most valuable players.

Without Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins don’t beat Washington. They probably squeak by Columbus with an average backup goalie because they were simply the better team. The game seven shutout of Washington in the second round was about as disheartening to a fan base as the inevitable Fleury trade will be for this one. He carried that momentum two games into the Ottawa series, then things went south.

A bad nine minutes in game three, where he allowed four goals on nine shots, will soon turn into the final outing that Fleury had as a Pittsburgh Penguin. Let me remind you, Fleury is considered the back up.

So, when the starter got his chance, he wasn’t going to look back.

Matt Murray was very good over the final four and a half games of the Eastern Conference Finals. He faced barrages from the Senators and battled tooth and nail with embattled Senators goalie Craig Anderson for a victory in seven games.

Murray took on the Cinderella story from Nashville. He opposed Pekka Rinne, a leader for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Finals, and thoroughly played better. The Penguins made Rinne look silly on several occasions. Although it seemed that mid-series that the Predators had figured Murray out, Mike Sullivan‘s confidence didn’t waiver. He stuck it out with Murray who repaid the coach with, not one, but TWO shutouts in the final two games of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Murray is still considered a rookie. He is the only player in NHL history to win two Cups as a rookie. While this comes on sort of a technicality, it doesn’t downplay the magnitude of him spearheading two Stanley Cup championships. Who’s to say the Penguins would or wouldn’t be in this situation today had Murray not hurt his groin in the pregame of the game one of the Blue Jackets series?

But that wasn’t the case. Fleury stepped in and did an admirable job. One that Tristan Jarry simply wouldn’t have been able to do.

Credit Jim Rutherford for that one.

As trade deadline day approached, an unsettling feeling grew within the stomach of Marc-Andre Fleury. He was drafted by the Penguins in 2003 and has played his entire career to this point with Pittsburgh. The rumors ran rampant that he’d be moved to another team as his trade value seemed to be plummeting ever so quickly after his truthfully horrible regular season.

Rutherford surprised everyone and stuck to his guns saying that it’s never a bad thing to have two goalies of the caliber that Murray and Fleury are. Rutherford wants to keep both goalies. It’s practically impossible at this point.

The impending Vegas Golden Knights franchise will be drafting in a few weeks to assemble their team for the upcoming year and Fleury is undoubtedly on their radar. After his playoff performance, he’ll be on a few other teams’ radar.

As I mentioned before, the Penguins don’t beat Washington without Fleury. It doesn’t happen. He was spot on against Alex Ovechkin and outdueled Braden Holtby with no reason to look over his shoulder.

Rutherford not moving Fleury is a credit to Rutherford’s intelligence as a general manager. It’s a huge reason why the Penguins repeated as Stanley Cup champions and why they have a legitmate shot to win yet again in 2018.

COLUMN: Sit Back, Relax, And Enjoy

In the Stanley Cup Finals, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators are tied at two games a piece heading into game five of the best of seven series. And yet, people are still unsatisfied.

Walk around downtown and you hear the murmurs of negativity. Talk to your co-worker and it’s likely they want off with Matt Murray‘s head. Heck, call your family members and I’m sure panic has begun to set in amongst the household.

The Penguins first won the Stanley Cup back in 1991 and then did it again in 92’. They won in 2009 and again last season. They lost to the Detroit Red Wings in 2008. 1991 was exactly 26 years ago. The Penguins have been to six Stanley Cups in that time frame. They have participated in 23% of the Stanley Cup Finals since 1991. Only the Detroit Red Wings have appeared in as many the Penguins.

That’s an important thing to ponder when you look at how successful the Penguins as a franchise have been. So how does that in any way, shape, or form affect the 2016-17′ Penguins? Ask Mike Sullivan.

Calm, cool, collected. Three very good adjectives to describe one of the best things to happen to the Penguins since Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang. The Penguins have yet to lose a playoff series under Sullivan and have faced this much adversity on many occasions.

As one of my friends today put it: “This might be the best era of Penguins hockey we’ve ever seen”.

He isn’t referring to the 26 years that have elapsed since the Penguins first championship. He’s speaking on behalf of what the next 3-5 years could potentially hold.

The Penguins are back in the same Stanley Cup Finals that they won last season and took an early two game lead after the first two games played at PPG Paints Arena. They’re the first team to participate in back to back Stanley Cups since…themselves and Detroit. The Blackhawks 3-in-6 “dynasty” that we talk about could easily be topped by this team. Don’t count it out. They’ve got a chance to be 2-in-2.

And what’s this goalie debate you speak of? Who really cares if we are being honest. This is the best goalie tandem that the Penguins have ever had and will ever have. Unfortunately, the salary cap and the expansion draft will likely force the Penguins to have to break up this tandem.

In his darkest of days, no one has been more supportive of Marc-Andre Fleury than Murray. Fleury spent all of last season’s playoffs, sans the loss to Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Finals, riding the bench after returning from his concussion. He played these playoffs until a 4 goals on 9 shots performance in game three of this season’s Eastern Conference Finals got him yanked from the crease.

Murray, who began this season on the injured reserve, has been stellar this postseason outside of his game four performance that has the Murray/Fleury debate rearing its ugly head.

Just let it be. Instead of beig opposed to one of these outstanding goalies, appreciate the fact that it’s very likely that the Penguins don’t make it to this point had Jim Rutherford shipped away Fleury amidst the trade deadline rumors.

It seems as though the Penguins finally will have to get rid of part of the “core four” when Fleury likely parts ways this offseason. That era has brought its ups and downs. Can you even fathom what this era will do?

Not only will Crosby, Malkin, and Letang rest assuredly be in a Penguins uniform next season, add the likes of Jake Guentzel for a full season. Even further down that 3-5 year path, talented prospects like Daniel Sprong and Zach Aston-Reese will be showcasing their NHL talents.

I could name plenty of young guys who we’ve watched over the past two postseasons do magical things for the Penguins. They’ve never had this much speed or balance or depth or any part of the magical formula that wins teams hockey games this day in age.

If the Penguins can win game five and take a 3-2 stronghold on the series, can they win one of the final two and take home Lord Stanley.

That would mean that with all the talent they’ve got, they’d have four years to match or even better the “3-in-6” standard set by Chicago. They’ll have better stars and a better goalie than Chicago did to do the trick.

Seriously, quit worrying about the little things with this team. They’ve done nothing but prove you wrong, anyway. Relax, grab a pepsi or coke, watch this team play their way one game closer to that final victory to win them a second consecutive Stanley Cup Finals.

Keys/Notes to Game 4

The Pittsburgh Penguins head into game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals up 2-1, the exact same situation they were in last season and well, we all know how that ended.

  • After Sunday’s practice, it appears that Matt Murray will remain the starter for the Pens in game 4 and rightfully so. Murray is an astounding 7-0 following a playoff loss. Murray has proven in is short NHL career that his ability to bounce back after a loss is top notch. It’s no surprise Sullivan sticks with his guy.

 

Nashville Predators center Colton Sissons (10) celebrates a goal as Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) looks on during the second period in Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals Saturday, June 3, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. Photo: Mark Humphrey, AP / Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

  • Shockingly it appears that Nick Bonino will be a game time decision for game 4. Bonino missed game 3 with a lower body injury (ankle) and was in a boot and on crutches the past two days. He did skate early Sunday morning, and then later participate in practice, being part of the second power play unit.

  • Geno Malkin. I believe that game 4 is the type of game we can see Geno take over. After a frustrating game 3, I fully expect Malkin to come out with a purpose and lead the pens to a victory in Nashville.

  • The Power play. There is no question that the Pens power play has struggled during the finals. The Penguins are just 1-13 in finals on the power play. With their one goal coming in game 1. If it is a mixing of lines, moving players around in the zone, or a new look player play completely, special teams wins or loses games and right now it is costing the Pens.

Image result for penguins power play

The Pens look to take a commanding 3-1 series lead Monday night in Nashville. It will not be an easy game, but the Penguins have proven that they bounce back well after a loss. Puck drop is set for a little after 8pm in Nashville on NBC.

Comparing Murray And Fleury

The goalie situation in Pittsburgh has hit yet another episode. The Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc Andre Fleury was pulled in game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals after allowing 4 goals on just 9 shots. Matt Murray was called on in relief of MAF and allowed only 1 goal on 20 shots faced. After the Pens dropped game 3, 5-1, game 4 had all goalie drama leading into it. Head coach Mike Sullivan decided to switch things up in net, giving Matt Murray his first start in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Murray looked sharp, stopping 18 of 20 shots, and leading the Pens to a 3-2 victory and ultimately tying the series at 2 games a peace.

Sullivan stuck with Murray as his guy for game 5, and it proved to be the right call yet again. Murray backstopped the Pens to a dominating 7-0 win, and taking their first lead of the series going up 3-2 into game 6 on Tuesday night.

The question moving forward is, who is the starting goalie? This is a question that penguin’s fans have been asking themselves all season.

MAF has been lights out this postseason, and you could argue that the Penguins are not in the ECF without his stellar play. Fleury’s 2017 postseason stats read as:

Wins- 9

Loses- 6

GAA- 2.56

Save %- .924

Shutouts- 2

Fleury is posting even better numbers this year than he did in 2009 when he led the team to their first Stanley Cup in the “Crosby Era”

Fleury’s one hiccup this postseason came in game 3, and Murray took advantage of the situation.

Murray, who is 7-2 in his last 9 postseason starts, appears to be “the guy” for HCMS moving forward.

Murray has proven to be a big-time player. Still considered a rookie, Murray’s career playoff stats read as (Before game 6 ECF 2017):

Wins- 17

Losses- 6

GAA- 1.97

Save %- .927

Shutouts- 2

Not only Murray, but the entire team always plays well following a loss, so heading into game 7 the team and city should be buzzing with confidence to see the Pens in the SCF in back to back years.

As far as the rest of the playoffs go, I believe that Sullivan will ride out Murray. He seems to have confidence in Murray being the guy moving forward this postseason and into next year.

I have full confidence in both MAF and Murray leading this team to their 2nd cup in as many years.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the closing weeks of the season, and into the off season.

COLUMN: When It Reigns, It Pours

Anyone seen the Ottawa Senators? Maybe they were out too late last night celebrating goalie Craig Anderson‘s birthday because it sure seemed like it.

Anderson pulled off his best Marc-Andre Fleury impression by giving up four goals in the first period and giving his team virtually no chance to win. After absolutely dominating the Penguins in the first three games, Anderson has faultered over the past two and was even pulled in game five.

The Penguins took this one 7-0. It wasn’t close from Olli Maatta‘s opening of the scoring to Trevor Daley capping it off mid-way through the third on the power play, it was never in doubt.

The Penguins dominated from the opening face off. It was inevitable that they’d at least score but the seven goals weren’t just a fluke. They were legitimately the better team.

They know better than anyone as the defending champs that, when it reigns, it pours. As hungry as they were last year, they’re more hungry this time around.

I’ll give you this, the Penguins do look disinterested at times. They look tired, slow, sloppy, lackadaisical. You name it. But, they are a tired team after last year’s run. And I think they want nothing more than to win a Stanley Cup as a team that is nowhere close to 100%.

Between injuries, fatigue, and a lack of dominant performances from their star players, the Penguins want to win this to show the NHL that they legitimately are the best team in the league.

Take a look at the box score. There were two players in uniform this afternoon, sans Matt Murray, that didn’t put a shot on goal; Mark Streit and Jake Guentzel.

Everyone wanted in on the action tonight. That’s big. The team as a whole knew that they won’t score by looking for the perfect play and skating right into the trap. They used the momentum from a big series turning game four victory and zoomed into game five wanting it more. Poor Craig Anderson got abused on his birthday.

Another tidbit from the score sheet tonight: The Penguins had seven players with two or more points on the night. They got a three assist night out of Evgeni Malkin and Carter Rowney. Yes, Carter Rowney. He’s been sensational in this postseason.

Murray may not have been the star tonight despite his shutout but he deserves credit. He turned away 25 shots, which is a high number for how badly Ottawa was outplayed, for his first shutout this postseason in only his second start. He wants to be the Murray that won game after game last year to lead Pittsburgh to glory.

These reigning champions are one win away from moving to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second consecutive season. They want the chance to defend that title. 

Anaheim or Nashville await them if they are to win Tuesday. They control their own destiny now. It’s time to push through to the Finals.

Marc-Andre Fleury Now Under The Spotlight

If game one didn’t test the average Penguins fan’s nerves pregame, then one might question if they’re even a fan as Matt Murray was injured in warmups.

Marc-Andre Fleury was forced to step in and fill the hole left by the Murray injury. Thankfully, Tristan Jarry was kept on the roster with the Penguins brass obviously worried that Murray had a lingering issue with his leg.

With head coach Mike Sullivan‘s announcement that Murray has “no timetable for a return”, this leaves Fleury and Jarry to be the goalie tandem for the foreseeable future.

All indications point to it being some sort of groin injury for Murray based upon the way he was treating the injury and the trouble he had standing. If this is the case, there is the potential that Murray may not return for the rest of the playoffs.

If you’ll remember, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick sustained a groin injury in the Kings season opener on October 12th. He did not return from the injury until 59 games later on February 25th. His injury was so bad that he could’ve undergone surgery but opted against it. The extent of Murray’s injury is unknown so to say Murray may not be ready for 3-4 months is unnecessary. Groin injuries for goalie’s, and anyone for that matter, are a very tricky thing to deal with.

Into the spotlight goes Fleury.

Fleury is one of the most polarizing sports figures in Pittsburgh today. Many people view him as an integral part of the 09′ Stanley Cup team and applauded him for his role as the backup since the Finals last season. Others hate his guts and won’t forget his meltdown in the Penguins-Flyers playoff series a few years ago coupled his iffy career playoff numbers.

One thing can’t be disputed: Fleury might be the most important piece to a potential repeat if Murray can’t return. The Penguins are going to score goals. They did last season and they led the NHL in goals per game this season. But the career .906 save percentage in the playoffs will have fans wondering if Fleury’s game one was purely based on adrenaline or if he has truly exorcised his playoff demons and can be successful in the postseason. Pittsburgh doesn’t need another Neil Walker type playoff performer.

Fleury doesn’t have to worry much about being replaced, either.

Last season, the Penguins saw enough of Murray to be confident with either goalie. They don’t have that luxury with Jarry. He’s played one NHL game and did it with the most AHL-ridden team the Penguins have used in years. Don’t get me wrong, if Jarry has to play than the Penguins aren’t in horrible hands. He’s played very well through all levels of the minors and was originally touted as the better prospect between himself and Murray.

But hindsight is 20/20. No one knows exactly what they’re going to get with a young goaltender who basically has never played in an actual NHL game.

With goaltending being something that requires a very focused mentality any goalie would be much more relaxed knowing they don’t have someone breathing down their neck for extra playing time. We’ve seen it for years. Fleury’s last two seasons were two of his best seasons ever. His backup goalie was Jeff Zatkoff for better part of both of those season’s. With Murray taking the starting job this season, Fleury’s numbers dropped dramatically.

And even if Murray gets healthy before the playoffs, it’s tough to pull out a hot goalie in the postseason. More often than not, goaltending can be the reason a team wins the Stanley Cup at the end of the season. If Fleury is playing well enough to stay in and he’s playing confident, he won’t be worried about who’s behind him on the depth chart.

Unless Fleury has one of the best postseason’s in NHL history, it’s a formality that Murray is the Penguins goaltender of the future. The Pens are built to win now and can win for years to come. If Fleury gives the Penguins the chance to win now, then the Penguins can ride him, thank him for his services, and trade him at his restored trade value to the highest bidder.

But he’s got to get to that point first. Fleury, the Penguins’ longest tenured player, will worry about his future in the offseason. If he has the opportunity to win a third Stanley Cup in four tries while being a part of the Penguins, he’ll gladly carry that with him to his next employer.

For now, the spotlight shines bright upon that farewell tribute goalie helmet. He wants to do nothing more than make those guys proud for a third time.