You’d think a guy who won a Cup in his first toe-dip into the NHL would get a little more pub than Matt Murray does. But when you play behind the best player on the planet, perhaps the most gifted player in the league, the one who is always connected to hot dogs, and the blinding good looks of Kris Letang, you’re going to be behind the eight-ball when it comes to attention. We’re guessing Matt Murray is probably fine with that.
In some ways that’s a shame, because Murray has been one of the league’s best goalies, even though he’s not played as much as others due to injuries. He’s also had the constant buzz about whether Marc-Andre Fleury would get dealt or not, and you wonder if the Stars or Jets aren’t kicking themselves about that one now. Still, that hasn’t stopped Murray much.
Among starters, Murray has the fourth-best save-percentage at evens, trailing only Price, Dubnyk, and Holtby, with the latter two being the clear front-runners for the Vezina. Murray has also been clutch when the Penguins have left him hanging, with a high-danger save-percentage of .837, good for seventh best among starters.
And he’s had to be, because the dirty little secret about the Penguins is that they’re not really that good of a defensive team. Some of that could be attributed to constant shuffling on their blue line as Daley, Dumoulin, Letang, Maatta, and Schultz are basically made of duct tape and hope at this point. Either way, the Penguins are in the bottom third for attempts against, shots against, expected goals-against, and scoring chances against per 60 at even-strength. Everything is just about fire-wagon with them. They need Murray to be as good as he’s been. Even a slight dip and the Pens will have serious problems.
Murray is signed of a reasonable $3.7 million for the three seasons after this, which will help the Pens as the only d-men they have signed for next year are Maatta, Letang, and Cole. They’ll have to make some decisions. They might also have to give Nick Bonino a raise, though you’d like to think you can find a Nick Bonino under any rock you choose to live. This is how teams get in trouble, falling in love with their foot soldiers and over-paying them. Shouldn’t be too much of a problem if they find a new home for Fleury in the summer as well.
As for this year, you wonder how far the Penguins can go when they’re asking so much of Murray. One team that can run-n-gun with them is going to be waiting in the second round in the Caps, and they just picked up Kirk ShattenKevin for the sole purpose of playing even faster and more explosive with the Caps in mind. That series could end up being an all-timer, though Murray and Holtby will probably keep it from having the scored go too ’86. Still, no team in the past five years who surrender chances of the quality and of the frequency that the Penguins do has come anywhere close to the Cup (same goes for the Hawks, which probably should be praying for a Pens-Hawks Final after a seven-game classic between the Caps and Penguins because then they might get back to ’86). The only one even close is Montreal of 2014, and they had Carey Price and when he got hurt the Rangers pretty much ran them over… literally in Chris Kreider’s case.
At least it won’t be boring.