Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Matt Murray's Focus is on the Journey, Not the Destination

The Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender already has his name on the Stanley Cup — twice. Matt Murray may be a champion, but he’s still working diligently to improve his game.



(page 1 of 2)

M att Murray doesn't know where he’s headed, but he couldn’t be more certain how he will get there.

His approach, as much as his ability, has led the Penguins’ 23-year-old, two-time Stanley Cup-winning goaltender to the rarified territory he occupies among the NHL’s netminders. Murray’s advanced understanding of the game has made the difference at each step of his young career.

Yet despite all that success, Murray displays a desire to grow — to hone the skills that already took him to the promised land.

“It’s just about trying to make your job as easy as possible, fundamentals-wise,” Murray explains. “Every time a goal goes in, I know exactly what I should have done better and what I could have done better. There’s an answer to everything. That’s kind of how I like to approach it.”

Murray has worn this philosophy throughout his journey to Pittsburgh — from growing up in Thunder Bay, Ontario, to his junior hockey days with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League, to the American Hockey League’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, to a couple of championship parades down Grant Street.

That calculated, analytical approach accompanies Murray’s determination to compartmentalize in-game occurrences good and bad with a demeanor that Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan recognizes as “stoic” — factors that have conspired to make Murray unbeatable when it matters in his brief-but-decorated NHL tenure.

So far, at least.

“There’s lots of evidence to this point to suggest that he’s a mentally tough and mentally strong kid,” Sullivan says.

Anyone looking for that evidence need gaze no farther than the rafters at PPG Paints Arena, where the two most recent additions to the collection of championship banners qualify as exhibits A and B.

Because Murray only played in 13 regular-season games as a rookie — when that first banner was earned in 2015-16 — he was still considered a rookie in 2016-17, when the Penguins successfully defended their championship and secured the second.

That made Murray the first rookie goalie in NHL history to win two Stanley Cups.

In addition to being mentally tough, Murray is statistically in a class by himself.
 


Game photos courtesy pittsburgh penguins

 

In July 2015, Murray was a 21-year-old former third-round draft pick of the Penguins who had yet to appear in an NHL uniform.

He was coming off a game-changing season in the AHL. In the 2014-15 season, Murray led hockey’s top minor league in goals-against average (1.58), save percentage (.941) and shutouts (12) while posting a record of 25-10-3 in 40 regular-season games. Murray’s perception-altering campaign included an AHL-record shutout streak; for more than 304 minutes of ice time (in excess of five full games), Murray did not allow a goal. He was named the AHL Goaltender of the Year and Rookie of the Year.

Suddenly, he was on the Penguins’ radar — but there was work yet to be done.

Murray mapped out in detail what he needed to achieve during the Penguins’ development camp that summer. His perspective as he entered camp: “I know for sure if I’m going to make the jump it’s going to be because my play-reading ability is going to have to be a lot better.”

In junior hockey, Murray acknowledges, his height — he stands 6 foot 4 inches — brought him success. At the AHL level, he thrived after a realization: He’d have to come further out of his net and cut down angles against professional shooters that might otherwise pick him apart.

The last step, Murray was convinced, would be anticipation.

“I study a lot of goalies in the NHL right now,” Murray said at the time. “I watch a lot of film on YouTube and stuff. That’s kind of the biggest thing I notice, they’re almost moving into the play before it happens. They kind of see the play before it happens and know what the [attacking] player is going to do even before he does.”

The Penguins had brought him to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to join their farm team following his last junior season. And while the AHL Penguins worked on a run that took them to the conference semifinals, goaltending guru Mike Buckley worked to get Murray to play a more professional game.

“He wasn’t worried about playing in games, so making changes at that time was perfect,” says Buckley, then the Penguins’ goaltending development coach and now the goaltending coach at the NHL level.

Buckley sold Murray on his cause-and-effect theory of puck-stopping.

“When you’re more aggressive, you’re at cause,” Buckley explains. “When you’re deep in the net, you’re at effect. When you’re at cause, shooters come down, they don’t see much net, they tense up, they tighten up, they’re less likely to score or they’re more likely to flat-out miss the net, so you’re in control.

“That was a big boost to his confidence, understanding, ‘Wow, if I step out [of the crease], I have control now. I can dictate what these players are doing.’”

He made his NHL debut on Dec. 19, 2015, the first of four games he’d play for the Penguins that December. Murray eventually went back to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton but returned to the Pens two months later; he wound up playing nine games in March and April, including the last five of the regular season, after Marc-Andre Fleury suffered a concussion.

Murray suffered a concussion of his own in the regular-season finale at Philadelphia; the team turned to goaltender Jeff Zatkoff in Games 1 and 2 of the first round against the Rangers. Murray returned for Game 3 — and went on to win 15 of 21 postseason starts while backstopping the Pens to the Cup.
 


 

Defenseman  Ian Cole marveled at Murray’s signature steadiness after the Pens’ 4-1 victory over Nashville in Game 2 of last season’s Stanley Cup Final.

“He’s just such a calming presence back there,” Cole said that night. “He never gets rattled. A goal goes in, and he can play the exact same way right after that — which is hard for any goalie to do, but especially one that’s still really quite young ... I think the guys feed off that calmness and that confidence that he has.”

Sullivan does, too.

“Part of it is his demeanor,” says Sullivan, who coached Murray in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before beating him to Pittsburgh by only a week; Sullivan was named head coach of the Penguins on Dec. 12, 2015. “He has a very stoic approach. When I say that, I speak to how he handles the adversities, the challenges. If he lets in a bad goal or things don’t go his way, he responds the right way to those situations.

“And then part of it is his style of play. For a goaltender, he reads plays extremely well. He has a high hockey IQ. His anticipation skills are extremely strong. He has an economy of motion about him. He’s never making flailing saves. The puck just seems to hit him because he’s in the right place at the right time, and that goes back to his ability to read plays. He can anticipate, get to spots, square up to the puck — and he makes difficult saves sometimes look routine.”

Buckley agrees, saying that he considers Murray’s “mental component” to be his “biggest strength.”

“He’s definitely mature beyond his years,” Sullivan adds. “Just being around him for a week or so and watching how he carried himself, that’s when it jumped out at me. It’s more in the subtleties, how he carries himself in the locker room and how he carries himself on the ice, his approach to the game every day.”

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

The 400-Word Review: The Equalizer 2

An unnecessary sequel to the Denzel Washington action flick arrives for a quick beat-em-up fix.

The 400-Word Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

The sequel to the 2008 ABBA musical is far from perfect, but might have enough charm to keep you on board.

You're Going to Be Upside Down a Lot on New Kennywood Coaster

Kennywood has revealed its replacement ride for “The Log Jammer” which will be located in a new portion of the park entitled “Steelers Country.”

Restaurant Review: Poulet Bleu

Richard DeShantz steps it up with a move from Downtown to Lawrenceville and shows Pittsburgh how to make French dining fun.

Pittsburgh to Host Nation’s First Black Beer Festival

Day Bracey and Ed Bailey of Drinking Partners Podcast and Mike Potter of Black Brew Culture online magazine will bring 12 black-owned breweries to Pittsburgh in August for Fresh Fest.

Coming Clean: Why We Aren't a Green City ... Yet

Pittsburgh is no longer a smoky city, but that doesn’t mean it has cleaned up its act. Pittsburgh's air quality still ranks among the worst in the nation. What steps are being taken to reduce Pittsburgh's ongoing dependence on fossil fuels?

Ultimate Comfort Food: The Joy of Dumplings

Why our dining critic thinks dumplings might be his ultimate comfort food.

Our Seven Favorite Dumplings in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, of course, is best known for the pierogi. Our love of dumplings extends beyond that, however. These seven dumplings are our favorite restaurant versions of their various styles.

The Tailor's Dumpling: Kreplach

A Pittsburgh chef and his family continue to craft a family recipe with roots in Poland.

The Pittsburgh Region's Top Dentists 2018

Our annual list, which contains 376 dentists across 11 specialities, as determined by topDENTISTS.

A Weekend Mission of Mercy in Pittsburgh

More than a thousand people come to PPG paints arena once a year for free dental care, thanks to an ambitious, all-volunteer effort.

Jump Into the River: Open Waters Beckons Strong Swimmers

It takes a strong swimmer and the right timing to dive into the three rivers. for those up to it, the difference between the pool and open water is profound.

Pirates Are Still a Long Way From a Hollywood Ending

Despite an 8-1 winning streak going into the All-Star break, the Bucs are in desperate need of a sequel, not only to win back some credibility with fans, but also to convince their owner not to sell off more pieces of the team.

National Aviary's New Renovations Make it Essential Pittsburgh

It's time to add the National Aviary to the list of local favorites you visit again and again.

PM on KD: Family City Guide 2018

PM Associate Editor Sean Collier appears on KDKA's Pittsburgh Today Live to discuss our Family City Guide for 2018-2019.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


You're Going to Be Upside Down a Lot on New Kennywood Coaster

You're Going to Be Upside Down a Lot on New Kennywood Coaster

Kennywood has revealed its replacement ride for “The Log Jammer” which will be located in a new portion of the park entitled “Steelers Country.”

Comments

Tom Hanks May Have Found Co-Star for Fred Rogers Film

Tom Hanks May Have Found Co-Star for Fred Rogers Film

One of the stars of FX's “The Americans” is reportedly in talks to appear in the Mister Rogers flick “You Are My Friend.”

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Pittsburgh to Host Nation’s First Black Beer Festival

Pittsburgh to Host Nation’s First Black Beer Festival

Day Bracey and Ed Bailey of Drinking Partners Podcast and Mike Potter of Black Brew Culture online magazine will bring 12 black-owned breweries to Pittsburgh in August for Fresh Fest.

Comments

A Pop-Up Bar in Pittsburgh that Serves a Sober Alternative

A Pop-Up Bar in Pittsburgh that Serves a Sober Alternative

Empath provides the vibe and social space of a bar, as well as stepped up beverage service ... without the alcohol.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Eight Best Frozen Treats in Pittsburgh

The Eight Best Frozen Treats in Pittsburgh

Our dining critic picks his favorite ice cream, ice pop, frozen custard, vegan delight and more.

Comments

Six Underrated Kennywood Rides You Need to Try Again

Six Underrated Kennywood Rides You Need to Try Again

Leave enough time in your next visit to Kennywood to revisit some old favorites and these underrated gems.

Comments


National Aviary's New Renovations Make it Essential Pittsburgh

National Aviary's New Renovations Make it Essential Pittsburgh

It's time to add the National Aviary to the list of local favorites you visit again and again.

Comments

Stop Using Uber and Lyft, Renting a Bike is Better

Stop Using Uber and Lyft, Renting a Bike is Better

You'll save money and have an easier time hopping between neighborhoods on a Healthy Ride bicycle.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pirates Are Still a Long Way From a Hollywood Ending

Pirates Are Still a Long Way From a Hollywood Ending

Despite an 8-1 winning streak going into the All-Star break, the Bucs are in desperate need of a sequel, not only to win back some credibility with fans, but also to convince their owner not to sell off more pieces of the team.

Comments

Compelling World Cup Worth a Periodic Embrace

Compelling World Cup Worth a Periodic Embrace

The competition is as fierce as the fans are passionate and both can be appreciated without a firm grasp of the details.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: The Equalizer 2

The 400-Word Review: The Equalizer 2

An unnecessary sequel to the Denzel Washington action flick arrives for a quick beat-em-up fix.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

The 400-Word Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

The sequel to the 2008 ABBA musical is far from perfect, but might have enough charm to keep you on board.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Perfect Proposals that Flashed Back to First Dates

Perfect Proposals that Flashed Back to First Dates

Return to your roots before your relationship blooms into a beautiful marriage.

Comments

I Do, Now Let’s Have Some BBQ

I Do, Now Let’s Have Some BBQ

A five-course meal doesn’t fit with every wedding. These laid-back couples opted for casual — and delicious — cuisine perfect for their outdoor and barn receptions.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Wow Factor: Empty Nest Inspires Timeless Makeover

Wow Factor: Empty Nest Inspires Timeless Makeover

When her last child graduated from college, Ingrid Meenen did something she had been wanting to do for 20 years — renovate the first floor of her Upper St. Clair home.

Comments

Head to the North Hills for Two Blooming Garden Tours

Head to the North Hills for Two Blooming Garden Tours

The Wexford Garden and Pond Tour and the Southern Butler County Garden Club tour both take place this weekend.

Comments