Ever since he became an NHL regular in March 2016, Penguins goalie Matt Murray has been practically unbeatable at home.
Coming into Wednesday night’s game with Vancouver, he was 27-5-4 in the regular season and 13-2 in the playoffs within the confines of PPG Paints Arena.
It’s a spectacular record, but it’s not something Murray finds all that flattering. He would rather be known as a goalie who excels in any situation.
“I try to compete 100 percent no matter what,” Murray said.
He actually finds his splits a bit surprising because he feels like he plays a feistier game on the road, where he is 25-12-2 in the regular season and 9-7 in the playoffs in his NHL career.
“Honestly, I think I play with a little bit more grit, maybe,” Murray said. “Not intensity. I’m always pretty intense. But especially in a tough building on the road, you always want to put everybody in their place and play a solid game.”
An impressive home record is not a new phenomenon in Murray’s career.
In his AHL days, he was slightly better in Wilkes-Barre (22-9-1) than elsewhere (23-11-3).
In juniors with Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League, the difference was stark. He was 50-22-6 at home and 29-38-8 on the road.
Murray wasn’t necessarily surprised by that last set of numbers, though. For one thing, Sault Ste. Marie was a difficult bus trip for most OHL teams. More importantly, junior hockey can be unpredictable.
“Junior is a completely different animal,” Murray said. “You’re playing 15-year-olds to 19-year-olds. Obviously, kids are a lot more comfortable at home. Junior, in general, is really an absolutely crapshoot for goalies and scoring chances and all that. It’s just a disaster.”
While Murray doesn’t think there are any deep kernels of truth about his game hidden in his home-road splits, he also doesn’t deny the obvious. For a goalie, playing at home is a little more comfortable than playing on the road.
“Sometimes a rink has a certain advantage that some teams are used to, like the boards in Detroit. In Ottawa, it’s kind of similar and they use that bank play a lot,” Murray said. “When you play at home, you’re going to get more of a feel for the rink. I’m sure there are a couple of small advantages, but at the end of the day, you play the same way.”