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Murray not satisfied despite success with Penguins

Goalie, two-time Cup winner hoping to remain healthy, have bigger role

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray isn't a fan of labels, titles or assumptions.

Murray, who at 23 years old is a back-to-back Stanley Cup champion, goes into training camp this week as the No. 1 goalie ahead of newcomer Antti Niemi and without a hint of controversy because former Penguins No. 1 Marc-Andre Fleury is now with the Vegas Golden Knights.

Just don't tell Murray all of that. He's not buying it.

"The term 'starting goalie' or 'No. 1 goalie' is just that, a term, something the media uses to anoint a guy that they think is the better goalie," Murray said. "It's what you do that makes you a No. 1 goalie. It's what you do that makes you valuable to your team, not your title."

 

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Murray has already done a lot to prove his value to the Penguins in big moments. He did more this offseason than he has in the past to give him a better chance to prove his worth to the Penguins over the course of an 82-game regular season.

Injury-prone in his first two NHL seasons, Murray worked with a chiropractor this summer to improve his alignment, which in theory should improve his chances of going through the entire season as the true No. 1 and to stay healthy going into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It's just to make sure my alignment is right on," Murray said. "If something is off, even just a little bit, that can really cause a chain of problems."

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Murray began last season on injured reserve with a broken hand, an injury he sustained playing with Team North America during the World Cup of Hockey 2016. 

He missed the Penguins' first 14 playoff games with a torn hamstring, an injury that occured during warmups before the first game of the postseason. Murray returned in the Eastern Conference Final and helped the Penguins repeat as champions by going 7-3 with a 1.70 goals-against average and .937 save percentage.

Murray also missed several games last season with various lower-body injuries. He missed the start of the 2016 playoffs with a concussion.

"Some injuries are just bad luck," Murray said. "The concussion I had a couple years ago, it's hard to avoid something like that, or a broken finger when you just land on your hand the wrong way. Some of that is bad luck, but some of that is I think a little more preventable. It's about trying to get stronger, trying to eat better, sleep better -- everything is going to help your longevity and your fitness. That's what I've been focusing on."

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Murray can't say with any degree of certainty if the hamstring injury he sustained in warmups before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Columbus Blue Jackets would have been preventable with better spine alignment and posture, but that injury provided incentive to work this offseason to try to prevent further injuries.

"It was something that probably was slowly kind of getting worse and worse and then it finally went," Murray said. "Whether it was preventable or not, it's hard to say. It's a tough question to answer, but there are always ways you can be stronger and more flexible and that may help. It's basically about trying to prepare yourself to handle whatever is going to come your way."

Assuming good health, what's coming Murray's way this season is likely something he has never experienced. Depending on how he plays and how coach Mike Sullivan chooses to use him, Murray could match his two-season total of 60 regular-season starts.

Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford has said Niemi could play 30-40 games, but that seems unlikely if Murray is healthy, playing well and the Penguins are a winning team, all reasonable expectations going into the season.

Murray started 47 games last season and went 32-10-4 with a 2.41 GAA, a .923 save percentage and four shutouts. He was pushed by Fleury the entire time, but if it wasn't before, it became abundantly clear last season that Murray was Sullivan's first choice to be their goalie.

"We've got all the confidence in the world that he's going to handle it well," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said of Murray being the full-time No. 1. "For any goalie, there's always challenges. There's so much pressure on you every night and we'll be there help him, support him. It's not always going to go perfect for him, but he's got that mentality, that mindset that he wants to be the guy and I think that's a big part of that job and he really embraces it."

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Murray said he is driven to prove he can be "the guy" for a full NHL season. He said the fact that he hasn't done it yet has kept him humble, which, considering he's already won the Stanley Cup twice, is no small thing.

"I'm still trying to find my way here and prove that I belong in this League to an extent," Murray said.

It seems absurd to hear a two-time Cup champion say that, but Murray has a reason to believe he hasn't proven enough yet.

"Well, [winning the Cup twice] is part of being on a really good team at a really good time," Murray said. "I feel very lucky to be with the Penguins so early in my career. Not just to be with the team, but to have a chance to play and especially in these big games, in these big moments. To win two Cups in two years is obviously a good accomplishment, but it's definitely not an individual accomplishment. I feel very lucky to be on a good team, but to an extent I feel I haven't done much at all and I still have a ton to prove."

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