Exactly two months ago to the date, June 12 if you aren’t an excellent math student, Matt Murray won his 15th playoff game tying a rookie record for most wins in a Stanley Cup playoff ever. That same night, he helped his team to a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks in game six of the Finals.
After living an almost movie star type couple months after a devastating injury to Penguins’ starter Marc-Andre Fleury, the prized goaltending prospect will head into camp with an even bigger role possible heading into the season.
The trade rumors have whirled throughout the offseason involving Fleury’s name and withe the expansion draft looking after this upcoming season, it’s very likely the Penguins will be trying to showcase Fleury to the rest of the NHL. I do not at all believe Matt Murray will be named the starting goaltender of the Penguins to start the season. But instead of being sent down to AHL squad in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the rookie phenom will slot into the permanent “backup” role, you could call it.
The Penguins biggest problem with having Murray on the NHL roster last season was that he was going to sit and rot instead of playing because the Penguins have always been a team who rides Fleury for 65-70 games a year and with good reason, of course. The Penguins will have an interesting call as far as goalies this year.
Statistics have proven that when Fleury doesn’t play the vast majority of games as the starting goalie, his performance seems to decline mostly because he can’t find a rhythm when he’s playing inconsistently. The Penguins want his numbers to be good incase a trade offer arises that they feel is fair for the high end netminder. But they’ve also got to keep in mind Matt Murray isn’t willing to just hand Fleury the job and only play 15 games next season. He wants a chance to prove his status as an elite goalie so that when his time comes to be the starter, they can fully trust his abilities.
Murray went 9-2-1 over the course of the last two months or so of the regular season and posted a .930 save percentage and exactly a 2.00 GAA. His playoff stats were just as spectacular. In his 21 playoff games, he went 15-6-0 with a .923 save percentage and a 2.08 GAA. He posted a shutout in both the regular season and postseason.
A Murray-Fleury tandem could end up working out really well. But it’s obvious Fleury isn’t willing to give it up that easily and wants to remain a Penguin his entire career.
“Matt is a really good goalie and a really good guy,” he said. “We don’t battle off the ice. We get along well, but we both want to play.”
To be honest, really there’s no telling what’s ahead for Matt Murray. Maybe the Penguins trade Fleury before this season’s trade deadline. Maybe the Penguins deal Murray off a Cup win and a possible hot start to the season for a major haul, even though that is unlikely. Maybe the Pens protect one and let the other go.
No matter what, I really truly expect Murray to be the one who stays in Pittsburgh. He’s only 22-years old and has proven he can win at the NHL level after setting multiple records in the AHL. How the Penguins will handle him this season and going forward remains to be seen. But one thing’s for certain, nothing is etched in stone. With a really good camp, Matt Murray could be the starter October 13 on NBCSN at 8 P. M. when the whole world gets to watch the Penguins raise their Stanley Cup banner.
No one knows what the upcoming season has in store for them. But whatever Matt Murray’s future ends up being, it’s sure to be one with crazy good stats and hopefully a few Stanley Cups, too.