Sometimes it's hard to believe that goaltender Matt Murray is still just a youthful 23 years old. After all, he's accomplished more success in one-and-a-half years in the NHL than most goaltenders achieve in a lifetime.
Murray has led the Penguins to two Stanley Cup championships in back-to-back seasons while tying NHL and franchise records along the way. In fact, Murray's only two seasons in the NHL ended with him raising the Cup.
So what does Murray do for an encore?
"(The media) asked me that last year too and I'll give the same answer," Murray said. "My job is to take things one day at a time. I'm not thinking about results or anything like that. I'm not thinking about an encore. I'm thinking about getting better each and every day. That's how I'm going to approach it."
It's that type of maturity that has allowed Murray to already be one of the premiere performers in his profession at an age where most young adults are just graduating college and seeking to begin their careers.
"Human nature is to get ahead of yourself and thinking too far ahead," Murray said. "It's just about taking a minute, relaxing and focusing on the moment that you're in and not worrying about anything else.
"It can be a challenge sometimes, but that's what makes it so powerful if you're able to do it because it's so hard to overcome that."
Murray's maturity both as a player and person is the reason the Pens felt confident enough to put the weight of the franchise on the shoulders of a 23-year-old netminder.
The club left goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, a veteran of 13 NHL seasons in Pittsburgh, unprotected in the Las Vegas expansion draft with the expectations that he would be selected.
Murray and Fleury shared the crease over the past year-and-a-half. But now, the crease belongs solely to Murray. And with that increased workload comes greater responsibility.
"I hope to take a bit more of a leadership role," Murray said. "That's something I still need to learn. I'm still pretty young. But I get to watch guys like (Sidney Crosby) and (Kris Letang) each and every day. We have a great leadership group here. I just hope I can add whatever I need to."
Murray admits that he's not the most vocal person and that leading by example is his best route of leadership, particularly, his play in between the pipes.
"If you're confident in your goalie and he stays calm, hopefully the team can stay calm, especially if things aren't going our way," Murray said. "I need to figure it out as I go. It's about staying calm in every situation and staying confident in every situation, building each other up and helping each other feel comfortable out there."
General manager Jim Rutherford, a former NHL goaltender, doesn't think Murray has to change much about his game or approach this season.
"He has to be himself, has to be the guy that got him to where he is today," Rutherford said.
It was only two years ago that Murray was the new guy on the scene, coming into a new locker room. He was welcomed by Fleury. Now he's paying it forward by welcoming his new creasemate Antti Niemi.
"It's a little different than the position I've been in the last couple of seasons," Murray said. "He was asking me which areas are the best to live in and I'm happy to give him any advice I can."
Niemi is a veteran netminder that has played eight seasons in the NHL with Chicago, San Jose and Dallas. Niemi backstopped the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup title in 2010 in his season year of NHL action.
Having a goaltender of Niemi's pedigree and experience will be a benefit to Murray.
"Obviously he's been around forever too, so I have a lot to learn from a guy like that," Murray said. "I'm always going to learn anything I can, especially from a guy like that.
"We have a good relationship thus far. I hope to get to know him a little bit more as we go. I'm sure we're going to be pretty good friends."
Relationships between goaltenders are typically stronger than any other position. After all, it's difficult for, say, a defenseman or winger to understand what a goaltender is going through. But another goalie can completely empathize.
"There is a special bond with goalies because it's a completely different sport," Murray said. "You're not playing hockey, you're playing goalie. We know what position the other guy is in. I've never met another goalie I didn't like."
Murray's backup isn't the only difference he'll have to adjust to this season. He'll also be working with a new goaltending coach. Mike Buckley has taken over for Mike Bales, who left for the same position with Carolina.
Buckley was the Penguins goalie development coach for the previous four seasons and worked a lot with Murray throughout his career. Buckley occasionally visited Murray to lend support and coaching while he was in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and even after the tender jumped to the NHL.
"We have a great relationship and have been working together for a long time," Murray said. "That'll be an easy transition. That'll be pretty natural for us.
"It's going to be nice having him around all the time, and having just another mind to bounce things off of."
Video: Hear what Murray had to say after practice