At the age of 21, most men are simply biding their time until the next weekend at the bars. Matt Murray, on the other hand, prepares to play in the biggest games of which a goaltender could possibly dream. That’s because Murray has led the Pittsburgh Penguins to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final – as a rookie. In reaching this point, Murray has shown tremendous Skill on the ice, proving anything is possible.
Despite beginning his NHL career with a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes earlier this regular season, Murray trained diligently and perfected his skills to earn another chance in net. He was granted that opportunity this past February and hasn’t looked back. Entering the NHL playoffs against a strong and experienced New York Rangers, Murray had a lot of weight on his shoulders. He would prove more than equal to the task. His reflexes and agility in between the pipes continually stifled the Rangers’ attack; Murray registered a 3-1 win in his first playoff appearance and then followed that up with a 5-0 shutout.
Murray really showed his Skill when the Penguins played the formidable Washington Capitals in the next round of the playoffs. The Capitals have one of the best offenses in the league as well as one of the best players in the world in Alexander Ovechkin. Murray would familiarize himself with Ovechkin early on. The Russian forward had been out on the break and was looking for blood as his team moved up the ice; a long pass from a Capitals defender found the stick of Ovechkin in Penguin territory, whereby he deked to the right and then left before releasing a shot on goal. Sprawling quickly and reaching far with his right pad, Murray smothered Ovechkin’s goal scoring bid. The promising attack thwarted, Murray looked far from being a rookie in net.
Throughout the 2016 playoffs, Murray has masterfully relied on his pads and glovework, all while defiantly blocking anything that has come his way. In the recent Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the San Jose Sharks found themselves desperately trying to score late to tie the game. Fierce, persistent attacks led to scoring chances from every spot on the ice, yet Murray would be unfazed. He first denied Sharks top goalscorer Joe Pavelski with his impenetrable wall-like presence and then expertly stuffed Logan Couture on a breakaway to preserve the lead for good.
For those new to the hockey scene, let me show you how impressive Murray has been in net and how hard it is to be a goaltender in the NHL. Goalies have little to no time to react when facing shots. To put it down to numbers, when a player rips a shot from the blue line, at average speeds of 80-90 mph, goalies have about half a second to react. Average shots from closer range, however, provide goalies about a tenth of a second to react.
Matt Murray is my Athlete CRUSH because of how much skill he is showing in the NHL playoffs. It is amazing how he has made it to the Stanley Cup Final as a rookie. He is proving an outstanding netminder, and being so young he still has a lot of time to grow, making him a very dangerous goalkeeper for years to come.
Follow Matt Murray on Twitter @mattmurray_30
Written by Athlete CRUSH Staff
Posted 9 June 2016