|San Jose Sharks' Douglas Murray (3), of Sweden, gets tangled with Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin (71), of Russia, in the first period of NHL hockey action in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2008 in Pittsburgh. |
A year ago, Douglas Murray
spent the entire 2007 postseason watching his Sharks teammates from the press box. After playing in 35 games during 2006-07, Murray wasn’t part of the Sharks second season defensive rotation.
“It was frustrating to sit in the stands to watch and not be able to contribute directly to the team in a game,” Murray said.
Now, 12 months later, his situation has changed.
Murray played in 66 games this season, averaging nearly 17-and-a-half minutes per game. Murray’s plus-20 rating was tops on the team. All of those numbers are career bests.
Murray’s steady play has earned him a spot in the rotation as Brian Campbell’s partner. And most importantly for Murray, he’s finally got a chance to play in his first Stanley Cup Playoffs after three seasons in Silicon Valley.
“I love playoff hockey,” Murray said. “I’m super excited. It’s my kind of game. It’s competitive, physical and it counts. What can you not like about playoff hockey?”
Murray’s M.O. is very clear. He’s 6-foot-3 and weighs 240 pounds. He’s going to use his body to stop the likes of 50-goal scorer Jarome Iginla and 30-goal scorer Daymond Langkow when Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against Calgary begins tomorrow night at HP Pavilion. After all, Murray shared the team lead with Kyle McLaren in hits (127).
Murray’s physical aspects have always been omnipresent. But when the National Hockey League started to open up the game by eliminating the clutching, grabbing and unnecessary stick work three years ago, this forced players to work more on their skating. Like Murray.
|San Jose Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray, center, fights for control of the puck with Colorado Avalanche center T.J. Hensick, right, as Avalanche center Tyler Arnason, back, comes in to cover in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Denver on Monday, Dec. 3, 2007. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) |
“You have to fine tune your skills when you get here,” Murray said. “This is obviously the best league in the world. You can’t get away with holding and hooking anymore. I needed to improve on my skating.”
He’s also worked hard on his entire game. In fact, Murray’s hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed by one veteran teammate.
“He’s actually had a chance to keep and win a job and move up in our depth chart,” defenseman Craig Rivet said. “He’s been given a chance to play for the first time in his career. He’s grown up probably as much as anyone on our team.”
A few of Murray’s highlights from 2007-08 include setting club records for plus/minus. He was a plus-10 from Nov. 12-15 and a plus-11 from Nov. 10-15. And on Nov. 12 against Phoenix, Murray was a plus-4 and had six blocked shots.
Those are good numbers, but that’s in the past. The playoffs begin tomorrow. Although Murray hasn’t played in the postseason for San Jose, he’s seen playoff action.
The last time was in 2004 for San Jose’s American Hockey League affiliate, which was then in Cleveland. In nine games, he scored three goals – which was tied for first amongst AHL defensemen and rookies. Murray also played in 10 postseason games at Cornell University from 1999-03, scoring eight points.
Yes, the games mean more now than the previous 82. More people will be watching the 16-team tournament known as the Stanley Cup Playoffs, especially this quarterfinal series which features a Canadian team.
And maybe Murray has played in just 135 NHL regular season games and will make his Stanley Cup Playoff debut on Wednesday night. But this 28-year-old sounds like a veteran when talking about what he needs to do to be a success in the postseason.
“I have to keep doing what I’ve been doing,” Murray said. “I definitely have to get a lot of rest and take care of myself physically and mentally. If you don’t have your routine down now and feel comfortable about it, you’re in the wrong business.”