PHILADELPHIA — Matt Murray was in full lockdown mode Sunday. On the ice and off.
On the ice, Murray gobbled up the Philadelphia Flyers attack. He made no less than five big saves in the first period and a few sparkling saves, too. He was credited with only 25 saves, despite the Flyers’ first-period onslaught, but Derick Brassard summed it up best: “Matt saved us two or three times.”
Pick your favorite Murray save, there were plenty.
Now, let’s backtrack. Murray is often one of the more interesting commenters in the Penguins room. He can be intense, insightful, sometimes he’ll accept blame and other times he will admit team faults.
His media skills are no longer raw, as they were in his rookie season and the start of his second year. Back then, he would indirectly point fingers and amusingly undressed a couple of reporters who asked poorly-worded questions.
Yesterday, Murray was in lockdown mode after the game, too. Immediately after a fantastic performance, Murray wanted no part of acknowledging it.
Pittsburgh Hockey Now asked Murray about his teammates’ comments that he saved them, and if he felt he gained momentum with the big saves.
“I just try to stop each shot as they come. One at a time,” is all Murray said.
Another reporter asked about the hostile environment.
“Yeah. It’s usually pretty hostile when you go on the road. Tonight was no different,” Murray deadpanned.
Did Murray get a better look at the point shots Sunday?
“I don’t know. There’s going to be traffic, so you gotta deal with it.”
Did Murray wonder if the Flyers siege would end?
“We just go about our game. They’re a good team and they’re going to have their chances. So, we just keep going with our game and stick to our game plan.”
Did his glove save on Nolan Patrick stand out to him?
“Uhhh?” Murray looked at us quizzically. “Again, I just try to stop the puck. Take it one shot at a time.”
Are you sensing a trend with Murray’s answers yet?
It was interesting that Murray didn’t immediately remember a glove save on a breakaway in the first minutes of the game but that’s part of what makes Murray special: He doesn’t have a long memory. He doesn’t dwell on goals against any more than he dwells on big saves made.
Especially yesterday, Murray focused on stopping the puck and didn’t want to talk about it. Or think about it.
And therein lies why head coach Mike Sullivan chose Murray. Not long ago, the Penguins were a team beset by emotion, often negative, and overthinking.
The Penguins could be rattled. For example, the 2012 playoff loss to the Flyers. Murray is the antithesis of those things. He is rock steady in pressure situations. He is rigidly on task. And, he does not participate in the emotion of the moment.
Sullivan often refers to Murray’s “makeup.” For a head coach who needed to remake the culture of a team, Murray was the right guy at the right moment. And that moment is ongoing.
Murray isn’t the heart of the Penguins. He’s their pacemaker.