The Pittsburgh Penguins are riding a hot goaltender in the 2016 playoffs after starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury suffered a concussion more than a month ago. A 21-year-old rookie goaltender named Matt Murray was called up from AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and has been a rock in net. He’s been in net since game 3 against the New York Rangers, replacing Jeff Zatkoff, and hasn’t looked back.
According to the Internet Hockey Database, Murray’s career began in his home country of Canada, where he played 40 games for the Thunder Bay Kings midget minor league team in 2009-10. Thunder Bay went to the 2010 OHL Cup with Murray recording a 2-1 record and a 2.67 GAA. In 2010-11, he was drafted by OHL team Sault. Ste. Marie in the second round (35th overall) where he played four seasons. He also played on the Canadian World Junior team in 2012, earning a bronze medal.
He was chosen as a third round draft pick by the Penguins in 2012. In Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he quickly developed into one of the top goalie prospects in the league. He recorded a record 12 shutouts in his first full AHL season and swept most of the AHL rookie awards in 2014-15. With Fleury under contract for three more seasons after this, one tends to wonder if they will make him or Fleury available if and when an expansion draft is called or make either one trade bait. I doubt Fleury or Murray want to be a backup.
Being a rookie netminder, he admires a lot of players, including Braden Holtby. He can get a little star struck when meeting players he idolized growing up. He also has no animosity from Fleury, as he took the young goaltender under his wing and helped him through some rough patches in the regular season. He has earned the right to stay in net even with a healthy Fleury watching on.
At 6 foot 4, he’s fairly tall for a goaltender. The more he sees, the better his play becomes. He’s a rookie so his puck play, especially when he passes from the net, could improve. His stats so far in the playoffs are mind blowing for a rookie: 5-1, 1.79 GAA, .944 save percentage and a shutout.
He’ll have an even bigger challenge Wednesday as Kris Letang’s suspension is definitely going to lead to more chances for the Caps.