At 6-foot-4, Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray can be an imposing figure. When he stands tall, shooters have a hard time finding daylight around the goaltender, but Murray won’t be confused with some of the more surly goaltenders in NHL history. Names like Billy Smith, Ron Hextall, and even former Penguins goalie Tom Barrasso were once famous for stopping pucks and inflicting punishment upon players who entered crease or crashed the net.
Like Barrasso, Murray has a pair of Stanley Cup rings earned in a Penguins sweater, but maybe Murray is learning that physical side, too.
“Maybe. My priority is to stop the puck, I have to focus on that first. If I can recognize that a guy is going to hit me, and I can brace myself, that’s what I’ve got to do,” said Murray. “They’re obviously not calling anything. If I have to…I guess that’s what I’ve got to do.”
After a few chippy plays in the crease, including at least one which resulted in a prolonged discussion by the players on the ice and coincidental roughing minors to Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin and Tampa Bay forward Alex Killorn. Murray took a small swipe at Killorn who avoidably slid into the crease and Dumoulin did the rest.
After that, Murray had enough. Early the second period, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Mathieu Joseph came racing at the net.
Murray flattened him.
Like a rattlesnake who felt threatened, Murray lept from his butterfly and extended upwards through Joseph. Through him. Like a catcher when he sees a runner barrelling down him and comes up for a hard tag, Murray convincingly won the physical contest. Pittsburgh Hockey Now had to ask about the hit.
“Yeah, they just kind of came in and weren’t going to stop,” Murray said as he partially chuckled in a form of self-deprecation. “If I’m able to see it coming then I’ve got to protect myself. So that’s all I tried to do.”
He saw it coming. Joseph…did not. (Thank you, NBCsn)
Murray realized he was straying towards a line in discussing officials. His assessment wasn’t incorrect in spirit–and he’s taken a good amount of abuse this season–when given the chance to expound on his belief that officials aren’t protecting goaltenders, Murray declined. Perhaps wisely so.
“Uh, I don’t know. I’m not going to say any more than that,” as Murray grinned. The Cheshire-cat grin Murray flashed as we concluded was made possible by a resounding win over the Tampa Bay Lighting 4-2, and likely enjoying being on the top side of a hit.
Murray almost got himself in trouble when I asked about his hit. Watch the smile he flashes when asked a follow up: 😁 pic.twitter.com/s7UqhS9Kd3
— Dan Kingerski (@TheDanKingerski) January 31, 2019
The reset, physically and mentally which Murray underwent in December has been extraordinary. The goaltender who had become sullen and frustrated is now able to smile in postgame interviews. And, he’s able to take chances and expand his game. Even if that means popping a fourth line grinder in the chops, old school hockey style.
Smith, Hextall, and Barrasso would have been proud.
Murray definitely seemed to enjoy himself. Perhaps soon it will be the skaters who need protection from Murray.