The two most impressive plays of the weekend for the Pittsburgh Penguins were probably both highlight moments from their goaltender in a game they lost 4-1 on Saturday.
Matt Murray made two dramatic saves, which really highlights one more important thing: he is once again playing like one of the NHL’s top goaltenders.
A second one was just as pretty, possibly even better since he had to track all the way across the crease and try to take away as much of the net as possible on a scramble.
Murray’s stats are among the best in the league since he returned from injury back in mid-December. In fact from Dec 14 - present:
- 19-6-2 record (19 wins ranks third in the league behind Andrei Vasilievskiy and Martin Jones)
- .931 save percentage (third in the league behind Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner, minimum 16 starts)
- 2.31 GAA (sixth in the league)
- 898 shots against (fitth most in league)
- 33.2 shots against/game (second most in league, behind Toronto’s Frederik Andersen at 33.9)
- 3 shutouts (tied for third most in the league)
Murray has also become the horse coach Mike Sullivan has hooked the Penguins’ wagon to, starting eight straight games now, including a back-to-back set this weekend.
“We think he has been playing exceptionally well,” Sullivan said prior to last night’s game. “He gives us the best chance to win. He wants to be the guy. He is a competitive kid.”
Murray noted after the game he felt strong, citing a short trip from Columbus back to Pittsburgh Saturday as a positive for playing two in a row.
“Those strength guys, they do a heck of a job giving us what we need to feel good,” Murray said. “Physically, I feel really good.”
In those eight starts Murray is 5-2-1 and his .931 save% is right in-line with his sample above from how he’s played over the last few months. Which is to say, even behind a patchwork defense that’s conceding a ton of shots and chances against, Murray is keeping the puck out of the net.
“I think every game’s a building block,” Murray said. “You want to build each and every game and get better and better. At the same time, every game, you reset, too. It’s just one at a time.”
Excellent goaltending is almost always a requirement for playoff success, and right now the Pittsburgh Penguins have to be very confident and impressed with the play that Murray has been consistently providing.