Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Matt Murray got his name on the Stanley Cup

By Larry Wigge

Matt Murray has put up some pretty good numbers over the years. But no team he had ever been on ... until now has ever won.

Now, his name will be chiseled into the Stanley Cup.

Murray peeked at the clock several times throughout the third period of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. He wasn't looking upward in hopes that time would fly. His mind was still in game mode and with the Pittsburgh Penguins clinging to a 2-1 lead over the San Jose Sharks, this was no time to get ahead of one's self.

"After we got that empty-netter they still had a minute left, so I knew they were going to make a push," Murray reasoned. "I knew we had to stay on our toes there for the last minute ... and that's what we did. They only had one or two shots the whole third period. What an effort by everybody. It was unbelievable."

Murray finished with 18 saves and could finally disengage from game mode once the clock read 0.0 and the Penguins were Stanley Cup champions.

"I probably won't believe this is real until at least ... I don't know, who knows, but I'm just enjoying the moment right now like I was trying to do all playoffs long," he said. "This is when you really get to enjoy things."

The Thunder Bay, Ontario, native's name will be in the NHL record books for most playoff wins by a rookie netminder -- 15, along with Cam Ward, Ron Hextall and Patrick Roy.

Murray also becomes the seventh rookie goalie to win all four games in a Stanley Cup Final.

Yet, Murray, who turned 22 years old less than three weeks ago, is the second-youngest goaltender to record the clinching win in a Stanley Cup Final since the NHL took exclusive possession of the legendary piece of silverware in 1927. The youngest was Patrick Roy, who was 20 years old when he won the Cup with the Montreal Canadiens in 1986. Three other 22-year-olds won Cup-clinching games, though each was an "older" 22 than Murray: Detroit's Terry Sawchuk in 1952, Edmonton's Grant Fuhr in 1985 and Carolina's Cam Ward in 2006.

Forty minutes later, Murray was asked: "I can't even remember ... how many minutes has past ... I do remember going through the handshake line, but ..."

Gone are the bus rides in the American Hockey League, which have turned into charter flights in March when Murray was recalled from Wilkes-Barre. He was brought up in December for four starts, but for this late-season call up, he wouldn't be going back down.

"I think this playoff run goes to show you, you can never predict what's going to happen," Murray said of his 9-2-1 regular-season record with the Penguins that included one shutout, a 2.00 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage and his playoff run of 15-6-2, which included a 2.08 GAA, .923 SPct and one more shutout. "My mindset has been this whole time to stay in the moment, take things as they come, focus on being in the present and taking things one shot at a time. I think that's been working for me. Like I said from day one, I'm just trying to have fun through all this. It's been an absolute blast so far. I'm going to look to keep that same mindset going forward."

After dropping his first game back in net, Murray would help the Penguins win his next seven starts before his status on the organization's depth chart would change.

A concussion felled Marc-Andre Fleury following his start on March 31, opening the door for Murray to take the starter's reins just two weeks before the playoffs arrived.

Following that seventh straight win, Murray himself suffered a concussion during a game against Philadelphia, putting the Penguins in the precarious position of having their No. 1 and No. 2 goalies injured with the first round days away.

Jeff Zatkoff would start the first two games of their series against the New York Rangers before head coach Mike Sullivan turned to Murray for Game 3, one of his many wise decisions this season.

There were nerves during that first playoff start at Madison Square Garden, but Murray overcame them and made 16 stops en route to a 3-1 victory. Nearly two months later, he's now a Stanley Cup champion.

"As a kid you grow up thinking about this stuff, getting to raise that Cup. It was a lot heavier than I thought it was, to be honest," said the 6-4, 178-pound netminder. "What a moment. I'll never forget this moment for the rest of my life, that's for sure."

Still, the number that stay with Murray until the 3-1 series clinching victory over San Jose in Game 6, was 6-0 with a 1.65 goals-against average after a loss this postseason, allowing two goals or fewer in five of those six starts.

"He's really calm in there," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "He shows a lot of poise. Every night it's the same thing, no matter what happens. And I think that's really important for a goalie.

"I'm sure every goalie wants to have that type of demeanor. I think it comes very easy for him to be like that. That's naturally the way he is. But deep down inside, I think he's very competitive, and I think the fact he's that competitive allows him to compete like he does every night."

Matt Murray was selected in the third round, 83rd pick, in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Used to be the goalies were seen as like the oddballs before
games. Seems there's a new generation of goaltenders that aren't like
that. Have you seen more of a change into what you just described?

"Certainly with Matt, he's a pretty composed kid," coach Mike Sullivan said. "What I've really grown to admire about him is just his professionalism. He comes to the rink, he controls what he can, he works hard every day, he prepares the right way.

"There isn't a whole lot of drama surrounding him. He doesn't really get on an emotional rollercoaster, so to speak. He just controls what he can. I think that's one of the reasons why he has the ability to endure some of the challenges that this league presents.

"I think one of the things that young players have to learn when they
establish themselves in this league is how to handle the emotions
associated with wins and losses, highs and lows, when you're feeling really confident, when maybe your confidence gets shaken and how do you get it back. Those are all human emotions that players, athletes, have to deal with.

"I think Matt has shown a great ability to navigate through those

Even as Murray took on the role as the team's No. 1 from Fleury over two months this spring, the long-time Penguins netminder provided plenty of wisdom and encouragement to his young partner.

"He's been unbelievable. I don't know where I would be without Fleury's mentorship, his advice," Murray said. "There was a couple of times where I was struggling throughout the playoffs and even during the season and I think that's normal for a rookie. This is my first time in the league and first time going through this.

"Of course I had some ups and some downs. He was there all the way through to help me through the downs. I'll remember our friendship forever."

Despite the multigenerational gap, Murray knows all about former Montreal goalie Ken Dryden, one of the game's great intellectuals as well as a Hall of Famer.

"He's more than just a hockey player. He's a very smart man," Murray said of Dryden. "I read a little bit of his book, 'The Game,' when I was younger. I know a lot of stuff about him."

Murray was asked to name the two goalies he looked up to the most while he was growing up. His reply: Roy and Martin Brodeur.

Do you remember your first set of pads?

"Like, ever?" he questioned. "I remember that the first time I played goalie, I used a rental set. And because I didn't know how to get dressed, my parents put them on the wrong way. I could hardly move. I was basically just lying on my side the whole game. That's what I remember the most.

How old were you?

"Oh, man," he said. "I would have been like 7, probably -- 6 or 7."

What made you want to be a goalie?

"It was probably that I used to love playing catch when I was a kid," he reasoned. "So I think the glove -- and that chance to catch pucks -- definitely had a lot to do with me wanting to be a goalie. As I got older, I started to watch Patrick Roy. He was one of my favorites. And Marty Brodeur. The way they played, they looked like they were having so much fun out there.

Did you always play goal?

"No. When I was 10 years old, we had the double-A house league and you had to sign up for tryouts," he said. "The two years leading up to that I would switch every game, so I would be a goalie one game and then play defense the next game. We had another goalie on our team, so we would just switch like that every game -- and I kind of liked playing both.

"So when I was 10, I tried to apply for both, but they said, 'No, you have to pick one.' So I don't know what it was that swung me toward being a goalie, but I chose goalie and stuck with it. And here we are."

Did your parents have any influence? Because sometimes parents are like, 'Goalie? Oh no.'

"My parents were unbelievably supportive. I can't thank them enough," he said. "You can't even imagine how much money it costs to play Triple-A hockey in Thunder Bay, because it's a 100 percent travel team, so you have to pay for all the flights and all the hotels -- and that's kind of combined into one lump payment at the start of the season. It's a crazy amount of money. My parents paid that. I played five years of Triple-A, so my parents paid that for five years in a row and never once complained about the equipment. Never once complained about paying so much money for me to play. It's crazy how supportive they were."

What do your parents do?

"My dad, Jim, is a lawyer. He has his own law firm in town," said Murray. "My mom, Fenny Seinen, does bookkeeping for a bunch of businesses around town."

"Every little thing that happens you can learn," Murray said, "and that's what I try to do."

Said Sullivan, "One of the things we love about him is his demeanour. He really has a calming influence on the group and he's done a terrific job in such a high-stakes environment all season for us."

Matt Murray got his name on that big Stanley Cup as a rookie.

What kind of future will he have?

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