Several Penguins players have conducted interviews during this prolonged coronavirus induced shutdown, but one player we have not heard much from since the season went on hold was goaltender Matt Murray.
That changed on Tuesday afternoon when Murray conducted a virtual press conference with members of the media, discussing a variety of topics including the NHL’s return to play plan, the ongoing pandemic, and much more. In total, Murray’s media sessions lasted roughly 15 minutes, but the netminder provided some insight on what life is like for an NHL player during this unprecedented time.
The session opened with Murray fielding a question about the recent spate of players testing positive in Tampa Bay and if that news changed how players felt about this possible restart the league is hoping for next month.
Although Murray did not directly address the news of the positive tests, he did state that the health and safety of the players, coaches, and anyone else involved in this potential restart is the top priority.
“I think everyone is doing the best possible job they can to put everyone in the best position to stay healthy and that’s the number one priority, Murray said. “Everybody is doing the best job that they can and we can tell that safety is definitely the number one priority.”
With the coronavirus question out of the way, discussion turned to the ice where Murray was been taking part in voluntary workouts at the UPMC Lemieux complex with teammates. From getting back into shape to the impending series with the Canadiens, Murray provided his thoughts on an array of topics.
“We’re making the best of the situation,” stated Murray on returning the the ice with teammates. “The skates so far have gone really, really well, the pace has been really good and the competition has been really good. In terms of the situation, I don’t things could be going much better.”
During this opening phase of returning to play, the NHL has only allowed six skaters to be on the ice at one time. This setup has proven beneficial to both goaltenders like Murray as well as the regular skaters who are taking part.
Murray elaborated on just how different these types of practices are and how they are helping him get back into game shape perhaps faster than a normal full team practice we would see during the season.
“It’s different than a normal practice. For a goalie like myself, it’s great because you see quite a few shots. For the shooters, there is maybe a little more skating than normal because there are less players and you get less time to rest.”
For Murray, returning to form in time for a potential full restart to the season will be crucial since he will be going against fellow goaltender Tristan Jarry to be the number one guy once play resumes.
While Murray hopes to be the guy and consensus opinion amongst hockey heads seem to think he has the edge, it will be his performance on the ice that determines just where he stands with Mike Sullivan when the decision needs to be made.
“All I can do is focus on what I can control and try to put my best effort forward every practice and every game,” explained Murray on how he is approaching the situation with Jarry. “Just making the best of the situation that we are in, putting in the hours and doing everything we can to be prepared.”
When and if the Penguins return to the ice to complete the 2019-20 season, they will face-off against the Montreal Canadiens in a best-of-five qualifying series. Although the Penguins will be heavily favored, Murray and his teammates know there are no guarantees once the playoffs start.
Murray noted the Canadiens team speed and the pedigree of head coach Claude Julien calling the shots behind the bench.
“They’re fast, they’re well coached, they’re structured. We know we’re in for a huge challenge. That’s all we’re trying to focus on now, getting ready for that series.”
Before wrapping up the call, Murray discussed how he has stayed in shape during the lockdown. He spent a majority of the break at his home in Canada, where he has a full gym at his disposal and relied on tennis ball drills to keep the eyes sharp until he could return to the ice.