CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Matt Murray has been a man of few words this postseason, and those words are often of the cliché, hockey-speech type. It would seem to be a concerted effort by the Penguins goaltender to maintain a low profile and put all of his energy into playing.
He broke from that approach briefly Wednesday to offer a bit of self-criticism.
Murray did not participate in the team’s optional practice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. While normally only players who practice speak with reporters, Murray still came into the locker room as the last player of the day to speak.
For most of the roughly three minutes he spoke, Murray maintained the monotone, bland responses he has been providing. Then he was asked to assess his performance in the Penguins’ second-round series against the Washington Capitals.
“Uhhhhh, I felt really good the first two games,” he said. “Shaky (Tuesday) night, but one save could have gotten the job done there at the end. Still right there. Still feel pretty good overall.”
Murray, who allowed four goals on 22 shots that game, apparently was referring to Alex Ovechkin‘s game-winning goal late in regulation of a 4-3 Washington win that gave the Capitals a 2-1 series. Murray lamented after the game that he did not make a save on that goal.
In helping the Penguins win the Stanley Cup the past two seasons, Murray was 22-9 with a .928 save percentage. This spring, he is 5-4 with a .906 save percentage.
Apart from the off-ice reticence this postseason, Murray is usually talkative and upbeat, offering honest evaluations of himself and the team — unless it’s about his often-criticized glove hand, which he routinely defends. (Mike Sullivan even defended it from a reporter’s question Tuesday night, insinuating that every butterfly goalie gets beat under the crossbar.)
So having Murray go as far as to call one of his games “shaky” is noteworthy. His pedigree suggests he will bounce back, perhaps as soon as Game 4 Thursday at PPG Paints Arena.
The Penguins will count on it, to be sure. There is no plan to have backup goalie Casey DeSmith play unless there is some sort of emergency, such as an injury to Murray.
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