Matt Murray is 22 years old. Most 22 year olds are maybe just finding their careers, perhaps thinking about starting a family, probably on their fourth or fifth job in their lifetime. He now has hockey’s greatest prize staring him in the face.
He worked his way into the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup due to a concussion to top goalkeeper Marc-Andre Fleury and an injury to backup Jeff Zatkoff. Matt Murray would never look back.
With numbers like a 2.09 Goals Against Average, a .925 save percentage, one shutout, and 14 wins, it will be hard not to hand over the Conn Smythe Trophy to this extremely talented young man. He will probably have to beat out Sidney Crosby for the award but there are worse things than coming in second to the world’s best player.
There have been numerous instances when Murray has come up huge for the Penguins, but the most striking quality is his consistency. He has not had to “stand on his head” for any games, which is also a testament to the solid team in front of him, and he has not had to make “spectacular” saves.
Ten of the Penguins last eleven wins have come by one goal. This means that their opponents are throwing everything they have at Murray in the last 3 or four minutes. In every one of those games Matt Murray has stood his ground by simply doing what he does best: playing consistent.
Murray has received tons of praise from some of the best of the best in goaltenders. Martin Gerber, the goaltender who got the Carolina Hurricanes to the playoffs before ceding to rookie goalie Cam Ward, had this to say: “He didn’t worry about what was going on around him, he’d just go play and stay calm, like it was something he had done his whole life.”
More praise from Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild: “The thing that has been most impressive to me has been the way he has handled some very tough situations.” Dubnyk was referring two situations: the tying goal and eventual overtime goal for the loss in Game 3 which Murray followed by winning Game 4, and losing his starting job to Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final only to win Games 6 and 7.
Matt Murray is at the forefront of joining some very elite company. There have only been four rookie goaltenders who have led their teams to the Stanley Cup. Murray is on the verge of joining the names Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy, Cam Ward, and Antti Niemi as rookie goaltenders to lead their team to a Stanley Cup. That’s four names out of 123 years of the Stanley Cup being awarded.
Even though Matt Murray is headed toward the most important game of his young life, he is doing the same things he is doing every other time he straps on his pads. That is the essence of a great goaltender. No changes. Same repetitions. Same meals. Nothing else matters. It doesn’t matter if it is Game 7 against the Toronto Marlies or Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Consistency matters.