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Murray looks to continue winning ways

by Mark Madden / Pittsburgh Penguins

Big-time sports have become greatly influenced - perhaps even warped - by the culture of statistics. The numbers mean everything.

But that's not the case with Matthew Murray. Don't expect the Penguins goaltender to join your fantasy league.

"I honestly have no clue what my numbers are," said Murray, 23. "If you ask me that any time during the season, I could not tell you what they are. That's not the best way to look at things on a day-to-day basis.

"If I keep looking at my numbers, they won't ever be good enough. You want to have a [0.00] goals-against average and a [1.000] save percentage. Anything worse than that is not good enough.

"I focus more on the things I need to do to give myself the best chance of stopping the puck."

Murray's stats confirm he's good at his assigned task.

Murray started the current season with five wins and an overtime loss, hiking his career totals to 46-12-6. His lifetime winning percentage is .718.

Martin Brodeur (691) and Patrick Roy (551) top the NHL's all-time list for goalie victories. Their winning percentages are .556 and .552, respectively.

Murray has a career goals-against average of 2.43 and a save percentage of .922. Don't forget his playoff stats: 22-9, 1.95 goals-against average, .928 save percentage. Not bad for a guy who doesn't care about numbers.

The cherry on top: Two Stanley Cups. Murray has more Stanley Cup rings than he's played full seasons in the NHL.

The Penguins are going for a third straight Stanley Cup, a feat that hasn't been accomplished since the New York Islanders did it in 1982.

Murray says he doesn't think much about that, either.

"There's not a lot of time to look back and think, especially with these short summers," Murray said. "It's been a wild ride. It's been very exciting, and I feel very lucky to be in this position."

Truth be told, luck hasn't had much to do with it.

While saying "I'm not as sharp as I'd like to be" regarding his start to the season, Murray generally makes goaltending look easy. At 6-foot-4, 178 pounds, Murray keeps the acrobatics to a minimum. He instead exploits his big frame and superior positioning.

"Maybe I'm biased, but I think I have a pretty good body type to be a goaltender in the NHL," Murray said. "Being centered and being light helps, with both speed and injury prevention.

"I'm not the small, fidgety kind of quick goalie like you see around the league. So that's definitely not the game that I would be successful at. My strengths are my size, lateral mobility, positioning and being able to read the play."

The Penguins are an extremely offensive team, and can thus be vulnerable to counterattacks. Murray doesn't mind.

"No matter what the scenario is, your job is to stop the puck," Murray said. "[Playing for the Penguins] is definitely a lot different than a team that plays a trap through the neutral zone and keeps things to the outside.

"But that's what makes our team so good: How fast we play, how creative our forwards are, and how our defensemen are able to join the rush. As a goalie, your job is to make saves, and make timely saves. To make important saves during a game that can be a momentum swing for your team."

If Murray is concentrating on improving any one thing in the campaign's early going, it's battling traffic in front of his net.

"Teams are really focusing on throwing a lot of traffic toward the net," Murray said. "Teams are trying to make the goalie's job a lot harder, and the way to do that is getting in his face and taking his eyes away. That's something I need to get better at, finding the puck through traffic. It's probably one of the most difficult things about being a goalie in the NHL."

Murray has had to make another adjustment: Not having Marc-Andre Fleury around. Fleury is now with the expansion team in Las Vegas.

"It's an adjustment for me," Murray said. "He's been so successful for such a long time. He was one of the best goalies in the league even before I started watching hockey.

"[Fleury] was a big influence on me: A big mentor and a guy to learn from. I've been playing more games this year than the previous two, and that's an adjustment, too."

Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).

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