Nothing magical about Matt Murray’s playoff resilience for Penguins
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Matt Murray just turned 23. Counting regular season and playoffs, he still hasn’t played 100 games in the NHL.
Yet his ability to bounce back from playoff losses has already started to become the stuff of Penguins mythology.
In the game immediately following a postseason loss, Murray is 7-0 in his career. He’ll look to run that record to 8-0 when the Penguins face the Nashville Predators in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.
It’s a stat that inspires awe-struck admiration from his coaches and teammates, and it’s not hard to understand why.
In professional sports, not to mention everyday life, few traits are admired as much as resilience. An athlete who responds to getting knocked down by quickly getting back up, dusting himself off and again performing at a high level is lionized above most others.
It’s the type of ideology that has coach Mike Sullivan praising Murray for his short memory.
“I just think he has the ability to move by adversities,” Sullivan said. “He’s a mentally tough kid. He’s a real resilient kid. He doesn’t let any of the outside noise, or if he thought he should have had one of the goals, he doesn’t let that stuff affect him.
“He has the ability to move by that stuff. Usually that’s a certain maturity in a player’s game, regardless of the position. It might be most difficult at the goaltending position for obvious reasons. That’s a maturity in someone’s game that usually takes time to acquire.”
It’s a philosophy that has teammate and good friend Conor Sheary absolutely sure that Murray will bounce back after allowing five goals on 33 shots in Game 3 against the Predators. It was the most goals Murray has allowed in a postseason start and the second-worst save percentage in a game in his playoff career.
“One bad game’s not going to change our opinions on Matt,” Sheary said. “We all know he’s a world-class goaltender. He took us to a Cup last year. Hopefully he can do the same this year. He’s a confident goalie and we’ll expect more from him tomorrow.”
It’s also a phenomenon that Murray himself has little explanation for.
As he prepares to play following a postseason loss, Murray’s demeanor doesn’t change. He doesn’t snort, stamp his foot and declare that no losing streaks are allowed on his watch. He just gets ready for the game like he normally does.
“Just play the game, man,” Murray said after practice Sunday. “Just play the game.”
Statistical evidence shows that’s precisely what Murray does after a playoff loss. He just plays the game like he normally would.
In 62 regular-season games over the last two years, Murray has a .925 save percentage. Among NHL goalies with at least 30 appearances over that span, only Montreal’s Carey Price has a better one, and that’s by thousandths of a percentage point.
In 29 playoff games over the last two years, Murray again has a .925 save percentage. Among NHL goalies who have appeared in at least 10 games over that span, only four players are better.
In the seven games after a loss, meanwhile, Murray’s save percentage is .926. It’s a practically identical figure.
It’s not hard to see what those numbers suggest. Murray doesn’t stop losing streaks because of his magical powers of resilience. He stops losing streaks because he consistently stops pucks. A goalie with numbers like his is going to win a lot of games, regardless of the circumstances.
“It doesn’t matter the scenario. It doesn’t matter what’s going on. My job doesn’t change,” Murray said. “I just play.”
THE SERIES: Penguins lead, 2-1
LAST GAME: Roman Josi, Frederick Gaudreau and James Neal scored second-period goals to take a 1-0 Penguins lead and turn it into a 5-1 Nashville victory in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night.
NEXT GAME: The Predators will try to turn the series into a best-of-three when they host the Penguins in Game 4 at 8 p.m. Monday.
A NOTE: The Penguins have allowed five goals in a game once in each of their four playoff series this postseason. In the first three series, they bounced back to win the next game.
A QUOTE: “It’s about what we do, not what they do. We want to dictate the terms out there. I thought they have been, really, most of the series. If we do that, we give ourselves the best chance to win.” – Matt Murray
A NUMBER: 19 – Penguins record for most career points in the Stanley Cup Final, held by Mario Lemieux. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have 16 points each in the final round in their careers.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.