SAN JOSE — So, question for Matt Murray:
You just won the Stanley Cup, a 22-year-old rookie playing the sport’s most pressure-packed position.
How did you manage to avoid getting nervous?
“I said every day that I was nervous,” he replied.
“You guys are the ones that said I wasn’t nervous,” he continued, following Pittsburgh’s 3-1 win in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. “I said every day I was nervous. It’s no secret. It’s not easy, but it’s just not being overcome by your nerves.”
Perhaps the question shouldn’t have been how Murray avoided being nervous, but rather how he dealt with it.
‘Cause let’s be honest, the way he’s handled the last few months has been almost unbelievable. A year ago at this time, he was enjoying the offseason after an abbreviated Calder Cup playoff run with AHL Wilkes-Barre. He was the fourth goalie on Pittsburgh’s depth chart — behind Marc-Andre Fleury, Thomas Greiss and Jeff Zatkoff — and destined for another campaign in the American League.
How things change.
Griess exited via free agency, and injuries to Fleury and Zatkoff opened the door. Now, Murray’s a Stanley Cup champion. He’s etched into the NHL record books, having tied the mark for most playoff wins by a rookie netminder — 15, along with Cam Ward, Ron Hextall and Patrick Roy.
He also joined some exclusive company with his accomplishments in this series:
And while there’s no official record book for overcoming nerves, Murray definitely set a few marks this postseason.
Perhaps no stat better illustrates this than his perfect 6-0 record after a loss. Against San Jose, that bounce-back ability proved to be especially vital, as it nullified the Sharks from gaining any sort of momentum.
There was some thought that, after a shaky Game 5 in which he allowed three goals on seven shots in the opening frame, the Sharks could expose Murray’s jitters tonight. Didn’t happen. San Jose had some looks, and a few quality scoring chances early, but Murray was sharp throughout and finished with 18 saves on 19 shots.
“[Murray] was unbelievable for us,” Pens defenseman Ian Cole said. “He was able to come in and just be our backbone. I mean, Fleury got us here and in this position and with his injury, Murray replaced him and played out of his mind.
“Enough can’t be said about how he stepped up.”
Thankfully for Murray, the nerves will now subside. There are no more games to play, no more questions to answer, no more cameras to face. Sure, he’ll have to deal with all the media scrutiny again in a few months, when the Penguins enter camp and he’s no longer Matt Murray, goalie prospect, but Matt Murray, Cup-winning netminder.
The nerves will probably come back. But they can wait until then.
“We got it done,” Murray exhaled. “So now I can take a deep breath here, and enjoy it.”