STOCKHOLM -- A degree from Cornell doesn't necessarily mean anything in the world of professional hockey. But one intelligent play by San Jose Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray made it seem he aced a course in anger management during his time at the Ivy League school.
Murray, a native of Bromma, Sweden, made his presence felt against the Columbus Blue Jackets right away Friday night. With the Sharks attacking midway through the first period, the puck slid up the wall and threatened to escape the zone as it came toward Jackets bruiser Derek Dorsett. Murray pinched and drilled Dorsett with a clean hit that kept the puck in the zone.
It also had a secondary benefit that meant more for the Sharks.
Dorsett, never shy about dropping his gloves, became enraged and tripped Murray in retaliation. With the Sharks about to go on the power play, Dorsett tried to get Murray, who at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds is more than capable of defending himself, to drop his gloves and take a penalty to even things up.
Murray wouldn't oblige -- and 37 seconds later, Sharks captain Joe Thornton scored a power-play goal to put his team up 2-0. San Jose went on to win 3-2 in their 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere contest, and the brains and brawn of Murray in that situation were a big reason why.
It also helped that Thornton was screaming "No!" when Dorsett tried to engage Murray.
"Dougie is so important to our team, and I didn't think it was a good tradeoff for us," said Thornton, who acted every bit like a captain in that heated situation. "Dougie plays a lot of minutes for us. I'm not sure how much No. 15 plays over there, but I thought that would've been a bad tradeoff. Dougie's a smart player and he'll pick and choose when he's going to fight because he's a real tough character. I thought he did a good job there."
Murray said coaches have been telling him to shoot more, and he saw 2:53 of ice time on the power play Friday night. Murray averaged just 30 seconds of power-play time per game last season, so combining his intelligence with the knowledge that he's going to be on the ice in offensive situations made it an easy decision for him.
"At that point in time we were going on the power play, I've been playing on the power play and our captain is yelling, "No!" because we're up 1-0 and we can gain even more momentum in the game," Murray said. "It's just not the time and the place for it. If he would've dropped them and come after me, that's it. You have to be smart about it. You don’t do it for selfish reasons. You try to use it to win the game."
Defenseman Niclas Wallin, a fellow Swede who had about two dozen friends and family at the game from Boden, has no trouble joking about Murray being named one of the smartest players in the NHL by the Sporting News.
"He's a smart player. Everyone knows he's tough as nails and if Dougie wants to fight, he fights," Wallin said. "It just shows he smart. He draws the penalty and we got on the power play. I think it was a really smart play.
Of course, Wallin has to get a joke in at the end of his answer.
"But obviously he's one of the smartest persons in the world," he said.
Don’t sell Murray short on his talent, though. This is just his fourth full season in the League and he's improved his shot total in every year since 2007; his 17 points in 79 games last season were 10 more than he had in 2008-09.
It's for that reason that Sharks coach Todd McLellan has bestowed more power-play minutes upon Murray this season. Now that could wind up being the smartest move of all.
"The one thing Douglas does very well is he's not afraid to shoot the puck," McLellan said. "He gets it on his tape and gets his body turned around and he's ready to shoot. It's hard to argue with that. We like that about him in that situation and he's also on the ice when their big boys come out after penalty killing and we like him in that position too. So there's a lot of good things about him on the ice for last few seconds of a power play."
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