Murray’s Hot Play Continues to Lead Pens

Penguins Players, Sullivan Praise goalies hot streak

Josh Rowntree
January 04, 2019 - 11:51 pm
Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray (30) reacts after having his helmet knockoff by the Winnipeg Jets during the third period at PPG PAINTS Arena. The Penguins shutout the Jets 4-0.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in a long, long time, Penguins goalie Matt Murray is playing like at the level that helped lead Pittsburgh to back-to-back Stanley Cups. 

In fact, it may be even better. 

Marray has posted wins in his last seven starts since returning from injury. He has allowed just nine goals in those seven games, and the Penguins have won each start. 

“He’s just been unbelievable, honestly,” forward Matt Cullen said following Friday’s 4-0 win over Winnipeg. “Coming off of his injury break there, he’s been really good. It’s just good to see him playing at his level. We all know the kind of talent he has and we’ve seen him play at that level. We’re happy for him. 

“Obviously it’s hugely important for us and gives us a ton of confidence playing in front of him. He’s the most important reason for this run we’ve been on.”

That run is now up to eight straight wins, propelling Pittsburgh from the near depths of the Metropolitan division to tied for first place. 

“He’s obviously played extremely well,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “When you can stack an few games together, like he has, and played as well as he has, it has to build his confidence. With that comes a whole different demeanor.

“Right now, he exudes so much confidence. He always has a calm demeanor in goal and that’s the quiet confidence, when he’s at his best.”

Friday may just have been Murray’s marquee showing in the run, and possibly Pittsburgh’s most complete win of the season. Winnipeg has the second-most points in the Western Conference, and leads the Central Division with, like the Penguins, 52 points. 

“Awesome,” said defenseman Olli Maatta of what it’s been like to play in front of Murray. “He makes those saves you need. And a little extra, as well. It’s huge. It seems like he’s the same as he’s been since he got up here.”

But Murray’s play has not been smooth since he hoisted the Stanley Cup in Nashville in June of 2017.

A year ago, Murray dealt with the untimely death of his father during the season. His play never got on track and, just as was the case early this season, injuries played a role. 

“He’s in a whole different place, mentally, than he was earlier in the year when it was a bit of a struggle, not just for Matt, but for all of us,” Sullivan said. “Hopefully he can continue to build on these games. He looks so confident in there. He looks so poised, he’s tracking the puck, he’s reading plays. 

“He’s always a guy that, at his best, he makes tough saves look routine. And that’s what he’s doing right now.”

The test now, for Murray, is to stay healthy, for starters. But, also, Murray will need to shrug off the inevitable down performance, whenever that might come. But his mentality may help.

“I think it’s all perspective,” he said. “Every game is a chance to reset, so that’s how we look at it. We’re on a good little run here. We’ll enjoy this one and move past it and get ready for the next one.”