Penguins goaltender Murray offers harsh assessment of recent play
March 18, 2017 3:31 PM
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Penguins' Matt Murray makes a save against the Dallas Stars in the first period at American Airlines Center on February 28 in Dallas, Texas.
By Jason Mackey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Matt Murray has allowed four goals in three of his past four starts, three or more in six of his past 10.
Those numbers don’t say dominant.
They say something else.
“I've been pretty mediocre the last little bit," Murray said Saturday following practice at PPG Paints Arena. "Not as good as I'd like to be."
Professional athletes in all sports can, at times, deny poor performance or refuse to admit that there’s a few chinks in the armor.
Not Murray. He’s as honest and candid as they come.
Perhaps even too hard on himself.
“The last little bit I’ve been pretty average,” Murray said. “I wouldn’t say I’ve been bad, but I’ve been pretty average. Definitely looking to be a little bit better here going forward.”
The good news is that Murray’s “average” has still produced 27 wins, a save percentage of .923 and a goals-against average of 2.41. How many other NHL netminders would love to have that sort of “average?"
But having won the Stanley Cup last season as a rookie, with a 2.08 goals-against average to boot, nothing about Murray says contentedness.
That’s one of the reasons why Penguins coach Mike Sullivan likes him so much.
“As a coaching staff, it’s our responsibility to push these guys to try to challenge them to get the most out of them,” Sullivan said. “I’m sure Matt will do what he needs to do in order to be at his best. That’s all you can control as a player. I love the fact that he’s a competitive guy and he expects a lot out of himself.”
It’s nothing technical, Murray said. Not his glove hand, how he tracks pucks, stays tight to his post, any of that.
It’s more about a mindset and finding some consistency in his game.
“Playing in the NHL is a completely different challenge than any other league,” Murray said. “There’s nothing that can really prepare you for it, I think. Just all the factors that go into a daily routine, all the attention, all the pressure. It’s definitely an adjustment. Playing a full season, it’s not easy playing your first full season. It’s tough to be at your best night in and night out. That’s what I’m learning. That’s what I’m going through right now, just trying to be at my best.”
Some good injury news
Bryan Rust returned to practice for the first time since suffering an upper-body injury Feb. 9 at Colorado, wearing a red, non-contact jersey.
“It’s always fun to get back on the ice with the team,” Rust said. “I was pretty excited today. I was out there earlier than I normally am. Things are coming along a little bit quicker than expected. Hopefully they can keep going that way.”
Sullivan declined to put a timetable on Rust’s return, but it does sound like before the end of the regular season is realistic.
Sullivan did call Rust’s progress to this point “really encouraging." Rust said he’s excited to ramp up the intensity as his rehab schedule will allow.
The good part, Rust said, is that he received some rest while rehabbing.
“I have a lot of excitement,” Rust said. “I’m as fresh as I can be toward the end of the year, which is something not a lot of guys can say. It’s the only fortunate side of being out for so long.”
Speed trap time
Derrick Pouliot watched video of his mistakes from Friday’s 6-4 win over the Devils. Predictably, he wasn’t very happy with what he saw.
“There are a couple things I thought I could have done differently, especially watching it [Saturday],” Pouliot said. “I’m going to try to take it day-by-day, try and be better than the day before and learn from the things that you see on the video and can control.”
The gaffes that Pouliot committed weren’t because he’s not strong or athletic enough to play at this level.
They’re because of the speed of the NHL compared to the AHL and Pouliot’s struggle to read and react to plays accordingly.
“It’s a lot faster here,” Pouliot said. “It’s a bit of an adjustment. Throughout each team’s lineup, the whole lineup can make plays. The plays are crisp. It doesn’t matter who it is. They can all make plays and hurt you. It’s a bit of an adjustment, for sure.”
Sullivan was also adamant that Pouliot’s struggles were nothing outside the norm for a young defenseman.
"Derrick’s a good player," Sullivan said. "When you make the jump from the American League to the National League, it’s a big jump. The pace is at a whole different level. I think players think the game a whole lot quicker, so windows of opportunity open and close a whole lot faster. That’s an adjustment process.
"Derrick’s going through that just like most guys who get called up do. We’re going to try and help him through that process.”
Respect for Jagr
Jaromir Jagr picked up a pair of assists in Florida’s 4-3 shootout win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Friday, moving him past Gordie Howe for the most post-40 points in NHL history with 269.
That feat, and Jagr’s longevity in general, has Sullivan and Sidney Crosby marveling at everything the former Penguin have been able.
“I don’t think I could even imagine playing at the level he’s playing at at his age,” Crosby said. “It’s hard to really explain how somebody can continue to be that consistent and do what he does at that age."
Said Sullivan, "You can only tip your hat to the career that he’s had. He’s been one of the best players of his generation. The longevity of his career is a testament to his passion for the game."
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