The playoffs tend to be a rough and tumble affair. That’s exactly where the Sharks Western Conference Quarterfinal series with Detroit began heading during Game 2. The more physical it gets, the more it is up Douglas Murray
|San Jose Sharks center Benn Ferriero, upper right, is congratulated by defenseman Dan Boyle (22) and defenseman Douglas Murray (3) after scoring against the Detroit Red Wings during overtime in Game 1 of an NHL Western Conference semifinal Stanley Cup playoff hockey series game in San Jose, Calif., Friday, April 29, 2011. San Jose Sharks defeated the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 in overtime. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma) |
“Playoff hockey in general is physical and he’s one of the most physical guys in the League,” Dany Heatley said. “He’s done a good job of blocking shots and killing penalties for us. He’s been great.”
Murray is San Jose’s 6-foot-3, 240-pound ultimate defender who happens to be at his best when the games are hotly contested for every loose puck. That’s when he can instill his will on the game the most.
“He’s a huge body,” Patrick Marleau
said. “He keeps the forwards on their toes because they know he’s out there. He can step up in the neutral zone and lay a big bone crushing hit as well. He likes the rough stuff and doesn’t shy away from it. He goes towards it and makes guys uncomfortable.”
“He’s a huge man,” Marc-Edouard Vlasic
said. “He plays against the best players and handles himself very well. He likes the playoffs. He likes the rough stuff.”
The highlight hits draw the attention, but Murray’s skill level has minimized the offensive skills of players such as Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. In the 82-game regular season schedule, Detroit posted 261 goals, one short of leading the entire National Hockey League. In this series, they’ve scored just twice. Murray has played a big role in keeping Detroit’s offense in check.
When playing against the NHL’s best, Murray combines his intelligence with brute force.
“He’s very good with his stick,” Marleau said. “He gets sticks on pucks all over the place. It stops the rush from happening.”
“His size and strength overshadow everything else, but he reads the game very well,” Vlasic said. “He’s talking out there and that’s why he’s playing a lot.”
Murray also moves very well and if it wasn’t for his skating, he couldn’t be lined up with Detroit’s primary scorers.
“His skating is good for his size and how big he is,” Vlasic said. “He’s able to play against Datsyuk and Zetterberg, no problem. You need to be able to skate to play against those guys. He’s done a tremendous job.”
|San Jose Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray (3) and Dallas Stars center Steve Ott (29) fight during the second period of the NHL hockey game in Dallas, Tuesday, March 15, 2011. (AP Photo) |
“Just because he’s such a big guy and so physical,” Heatley said about Murray’s other skills getting overlooked. “He’s quick with those guys. Those guys get going side-to-side and moving and he does such a great job of picking them up and staying with them.”
Murray allows the offensive players to take calculated risks as they know “Sir” is there to assist.
“If you make one mistake and get beat,” Heatley said, “he does a good of blocking shots and boxing out in front of the net.”
Ironically, not of the previously mentioned traits can be considered Murray’s best. His will and desire are unmatched.
“The biggest thing is the compete factor in him,” Marleau said.
That Murray is able to play against the world’s best forwards makes him a goaltender’s best friend.
“He’s the type of player goalies really need,” Antti Niemi
said. “When he’s on the ice, he’s playing defense first. Mentally, he’s like a second goalie, blocking shots, blocking passes and being strong in front of the net.”
A game with a 2-1 score may fit his style, but Murray says he’ll take any score as long as he’s on the right side.
“The playoffs are always fun, I think it’s a lot of fun winning 5-0, too,” Murray said. “It’s playoff time. As long as you’re winning, it’s fun.”
Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals at Detroit will be at 5 p.m. on Wednesday. It will be on CSN California, 98.5/102.1 KFOX-FM and www.sjsharks.com.