The Pittsburgh Penguins embarked on a three-game road trip with an all-too-familiar and unpleasant update: Matt Murray is injured.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said that Murray didn’t miss a Wednesday practice because of a maintenance day, instead deeming it an upper-body injury that leaves Murray day-to-day. On the bright side, Sullivan said it was not a concussion, according to reports including Penguins Inside Scoop.
Looking at Murray’s recent injury history, and realizing that teams sometimes describe concussions as upper-body injuries, it’s understandable that some jumped to the concussion conclusion. Murray somehow only missed one game in October with a concussion, and missed nine games with one last season (in March).
The 24-year-old also missed some time in 2018-19 with a lower-body injury, so it feels like the only breaks Murray usually catches are literal ones.
Murray’s season has been up-and-down when he’s actually been on the ice, too. His numbers are a touch disappointing but not disastrous overall (15-9-1, .909 save percentage), yet if you look at his split stats, Murray’s been all over the place; he generated a .959 save percentage in five December games after suffering through an .850 slog in five November contests.
That’s frustrating, and for as brilliant as his postseason work has often been, you have to wonder if the Penguins truly feel that they can count on the two-time Stanley Cup winner.
On the bright side, the Penguins have Casey DeSmith, who’s been as sturdy (.918 save percentage, 13-9-4 record) where Murray’s been more erratic. This latest stretch is another example that the Penguins made a wise value proposition with his extension.
One other bright side: Murray and other injured Penguins are on that three-game road trip, so this might just be a blip on the radar. Those other injured Penguins are Evgeni Malkin and long-injured defenseman Justin Schultz, so things could look up for Pittsburgh in a hurry, if all three situations work out.
Here’s the road trip, which begins in Florida against the Panthers on Thursday:
Feb. 7: at Florida
Feb. 9: at Tampa Bay
Feb. 11: at Philadelphia
After that, the Penguins play five of six games at home, although one of those “home” games is actually the neutral side 2019 Stadium Series against the Flyers. (With two fairly recent upcoming matches against Philly, the Penguins have to hope that their unfriendly neighbors cool off soon.)
So, overall, it could be worse for Murray and the Penguins, and it has been before. It still must be frustrating for a goalie and team that would really like to solidify not only a spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but also ideally enter the postseason on a high note.