Matt Murray said he isn’t concerned about losing the No. 1 goalie job for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
After sharing it with Tristan Jarry during the regular season, the two-time Stanley Cup champion is not guaranteed to start against the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. But Murray said he is confident, maintaining the right approach will end with it in his favor.
“I can only control what’s in my control,” Murray said Tuesday. “That’s putting my best effort on the ice every time. The rest will take care of itself. I know if I compete and work really hard, the rest will fall into place. So that’s where my focus is at.”
Murray likely will start when the best-of-5 series begins, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told The Athletic on June 16.
“You could see [Matt] playing at a more consistent level in the second half of the season,” Sullivan said. “We really liked the way he was trending. He certainly has shown, in my time with him, that he’s a better goaltender in the second half of the season and into the [Stanley Cup Playoffs]. His track record speaks for itself. He’s a good goaltender in this league.”
Murray was 20-11-5 this season and had an NHL career-low .899 save percentage with a 2.87 goals-against average and one shutout in 38 starts, resulting in him backing up Jarry for 23 of 35 games from Dec. 4-Feb. 26. Murray started five of Pittsburgh’s final seven games, winning three, before the NHL season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
Video: PIT@BUF: Murray pushes across to stone Vesey
Jarry, who replaced injured Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo for the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game, was 20-12-1 with a 2.43 GAA, .921 save percentage and three shutouts in 33 games (31 starts). He lost his final four starts, allowing at least five goals three times.
During the season, Jarry said the competition with Murray helped him improve. On Tuesday, Murray said he isn’t concentrating on battling Jarry.
“I would say, for me personally, all I can do is focus on what I can control and try to put my best effort forward every practice and every game, and try to be prepared,” Murray said. “That’s what I’m doing right now. Just making the best out of the situation that we’re in, and that’s putting in the hours now, doing everything we can to be prepared for when the puck drops.
“Every individual on the ice is going to be working to help the team have success. That includes myself. I’m going to do everything I can to be sharp, and be at my best, to help this team win another Stanley Cup.”
Murray has participated in limited voluntary workouts at the Penguins facility the past two weeks.
Training camps will open July 10 in Phase 3 of the NHL Return to Play Plan, provided medical and safety conditions allow and the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association reach an agreement on resuming play.
Murray said he thinks he would be close to full speed by the time the Penguins play the Canadiens. A start date and location have not been announced.
“We’re making the best of the situation,” Murray said. “The skates so far have gone really well. I can speak for our little group. It’s gone really well. The pace has been really good. Competition has been really good. So in terms of the situation, I don’t think it can go much better. This is the situation that we’re in and we’re all trying to make the best of it. I think everybody has done a great job of that so far.”
Play will resume in Phase 4 with the Stanley Cup Qualifiers in two hub cities — one for the 12 Western Conference teams, one for the 12 Eastern Conference teams. The top four teams in each conference will play a three-game round-robin for seeding, and the others will play best-of-5 series to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Penguins (40-23-6, .623 points percentage) are the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and play the 12th-seeded Canadiens (31-31-9, .500) with the winner advancing to the playoffs.
“They’re a great team. They’re fast. They’re well-coached,” Murray said of Montreal. “They’re structured. We know that we’re in for a huge challenge. They’ve got a lot of really good players. Like I said, they’re a dangerous team. That’s all we’re trying to focus on right now is getting ready for that series.”
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