In a series that has been physical, Murray has done more than his fair share of delivering hits. At 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, the defenseman is the heaviest player on the ice in this series. And when opponents hit his rock solid frame, they can’t move him.
“There isn’t much you can do with him,” said Captain Patrick Marleau
, who’s challenged by Murray every day in practice. “He braces himself really well.”
Murray is simply a player opponents have to keep their eyes on when he’s on the ice.
“Every time he’s on the ice, you know you’ve got to be ready,” Marleau said.
Following a massive hit by Murray in second half of the third period in Game Four, it may not have been a coincidence that the Sharks posted the tying and winning goals within the last five minutes of regulation.
“It was a big play,” defenseman Christian Ehrhoff said.
“If I get the chance, I want to finish those,” Murray said.
Murray’s strength also can be seen in his shot – especially the one that found its way past Calgary goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff to win the game.
“The bigger play was the shot getting through,” said Ehrhoff, who’s slapper is arguably one of the team’s strongest.
Murray simply deflected the credit.
“That was ‘Jumbo’ at the net,” said Murray about his teammate Thornton. “If Jumbo wasn’t in front it would probably have gotten blocked.
Getting shots through is expected, but it’s not as easy as some think.
“It’s tough,” Ehrhoff said. “Sometimes the puck might be rolling. Two people can be coming at you and sliding on the ice.”
Murray’s not known as a scorer – he only had a goal and nine assists in the regular season. But in this postseason, he’s got two points in four games. And when he played in the Calder Cup Playoffs for San Jose’s American Hockey League affiliate in 2004, he was tied for first among all AHL defensemen with three goals.
Nevertheless, Murray’s not going to become the second coming of Bobby Orr. Yet, he’ll help his team win in any way possible.
“If we need to use our toughness, we’ll be tough,” Murray said.
Tonight’s Game Five will probably be another show of physical force by both clubs. However, Murray doesn’t think the teams have really shown their muscle yet.
“I still don’t think the series has been that physical,” he said. “There have been a few big hits, but it’s not that crazy.”
If it goes to another level, Murray will probably have a little smile on his face as the game would be playing right into his hands.
THE BIG “M”
In this series, each team has had a hard time bringing the momentum from the previous game to a victory in the next one.
“It just seems like every game is something new,” defenseman Kyle McLaren said. “One play can make the difference.”
“Each game is different right now,” Marleau said. “Some nights, one team starts out strong and then the other gets going. We have to get out with one of our best efforts and continue.”
Whether they’re playing with or without the momentum, the Sharks still feel confident.
“We need to start the game the way we finished (Game Four),” Coach Ron Wilson said.
“We feel we are the better team here,” Murray said.
When Christian Ehrhoff returned to the lineup for Game four, Wilson dressed seven blueliners just in case Ehrhoff had problems. Instead, Ehrhoff ended up logging his usual ice time.
“It was a playoff game and there was a lot of pressure,” Ehrhoff said, “but I played the same minutes I usually played.”
“He was unbelievable,” Wilson said. “I was shocked at the end to see he had 21-22 minutes.
Ehrhoff said he felt fine after the game.
“I felt pretty good,” Ehrhoff said. “I’m happy to be back in the lineup helping in any way.”
Wilson didn’t say if he would dress seven defensemen again, but wasn’t worried about being down a forward.
“I’m not sure what we’ll do, but with Joe and Patty, they’d never come off,” Wilson said.
If Wilson juggles the lines again as he did in Game Four, the same rules will apply.
“Pay attention and listen up,” Wilson said about what he told the forwards. “Know who you’re going on the ice for.”
As he’s enjoyed his first playoff run, forward Jody Shelley has seen the extremes of emotions that teams can experience.
“That’s what playoff hockey is about,” Shelley said. “We had a major low and a major high in 48 hours. You can’t be too down in a series and you can’t get too up. You hear about it, but you don’t know until you experience it.”
Shelley was impressed with the club’s attitude when they were trailing.
“In the back of your head you’re thinking you could be down 3-1, but you hear the guys saying to keep (going),” Shelley said.
The Sharks and Flames have yet to play an overtime game in this series, but both clubs need to be ready for the possibility.
“You never know if you going to play 70 or 80 minutes,” goaltender Evgeni Nabokov said.
The Sharks know it’s highly unlikely they’ll limit the Flames to 10 shots for a second straight game, but credit must be given where credit is due.
“We did a pretty good job,” forward Ryane Clowe
said. “The best defense is to have the puck all the time.”
Nabokov said the 10 shots against didn’t necessarily make for an easy night for him.
“Trust me, it wasn’t,” Nabokov said. “If you told me it was 6-0 and they had 10 shots, then I would say it was easy. Because the game was such a scramble, it wasn’t.”
Wilson noted he had a few tired players at the end of regulation on Tuesday night.
“Joe was absolutely exhausted at the end of the game,” Wilson said. “He got a taste of what he needed to do to take it to another level.”
Ehrhoff was equally tired.
“Christian said he didn’t know if he could play in the overtime,” Wilson said with a laugh.
GAME SIX START TIME
Game Six from Calgary will begin at 5 p.m. and will be available on CSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.
GAME FIVE TONIGHT
The Sharks and Flames will play Game Five at 7 p.m. today and the contest will be on CSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.