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|Matt Murray doesn’t keep track of the numbers http://www.washingtonredskinsteamonline.com/zach-brown-jersey , which makes it easier for the Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender to not get caught up in them.
His goals-against average? No clue. Save percentage? Nope. Pittsburgh’s record during an occasionally uneven regular season for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions? Give Murray a phone and he’ll probably be able to look it up but otherwise he’s just guessing.
”For a goalie, it’s not based on how many goals you let in or how many goals get past you or don’t or how many saves you make,” Murray said. ”It’s not about that. It’s about how you feel.”
And despite a physically and personally draining six months that included multiple extended absences because of injuries and the loss of his father Jim in January, the 23-year-old insists he’ll be ready when the Penguins open the first round of the playoffs against Philadelphia on Wednesday night.
”I still pinch myself every day I get to be a part of something like this,” Murray said. ”It’s so exciting. It’s like Christmas.”
Even if Murray’s first full season as Pittsburgh’s firmly established No. 1 goalie hardly felt like a holiday at times. He missed two weeks in November with a lower-body injury.
A concussion suffered after taking a shot off the mask in practice in February cost him another three weeks. He took a leave to be with his family following his father’s death, but returned eager to get back to the rink that he’s long considered a sanctuary.
Murray ended up starting just 45 games and appearing in only 49, the fewest by the Penguins’ top goaltender in a decade. His goals-against average ticked up (2.92) and his save percentage ticked down (.907), both the worst marks of his brief three-year career.
Yet the numbers don’t take into account the occasionally iffy play in front of him, particularly a penalty kill that finished a middling 17th in the NHL.
Yet it’s not the missed backcheck or the inability to get a clear that people notice. It’s when the puck goes in the net.
It’s also, however, why Murray declines to get caught up in his stats. Feel free to point them out. Just don’t be offended when he deletes them immediately. The only shot that matters isn’t the last one, but the next one.
”Every single play Muhammad Wilkerson Jersey , every single shift, every single time somebody touches the puck, everything resets,” he said. ”What happened before doesn’t matter unless you allow it to.”
Something Murray rarely does, part of his preternatural maturity that led the Penguins to make the difficult but necessary decision to leave Marc-Andre Fleury – the winningest goaltender in franchise history and a wildly popular figure both in the dressing room and the city – exposed to Vegas last summer in the expansion draft.
Fleury and Murray took a potentially volatile situation in the spring of 2016 and turned it into part of the foundation that helped the Penguins become the first team in nearly 20 years to win back-to-back Cups.
Sending Fleury to the Golden Knights meant Murray entered this season without the specter of Fleury waiting in the wings should he falter. At times over the winter Murray flip-flopped between dazzling and dull, kind of like his team.
Yet Murray just shrugged his shoulders when asked if he’s worried about his play or staying healthy. He has no control over the latter – there are no guarantees when you make a living willfully putting yourself in front of a piece of rubber hurtling at you at various speeds from various angles – and he’s not concerned about the former.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan has long placed value on Murray’s ability to not get overwhelmed by the stakes.
There’s a reason Sullivan turned to Murray at every opportunity in the 2016 playoffs – when the then-21-year-old took over after Fleury was diagnosed with a concussion on the eve of the postseason – and again last spring even though Fleury played brilliantly at times while filling in after Murray sustained a lower-body injury during warmups before Game 1 of Pittsburgh’s first-round series against Columbus.
Murray returned and after a wobble in the middle of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final against Nashville, held the Predators scoreless in Games 5 and 6 . In the giddy aftermath, Fleury passed the Cup to Murray, in many ways a literal passing of the torch from one generation to the next.
There will be no debating this time around for the Penguins as they chase history. While Casey DeSmith picked up his first career shutout in the regular-season finale against Ottawa last Friday, Pittsburgh’s attempt to become the first team since the New York Islanders of the early 1980s to capture three consecutive Cups will depend largely on Murray.
And for all his downplaying of the numbers, Murray is well aware of what having his name on the Cup for a third time in as many years would mean to both himself and the rest of Pittsburgh’s superstar-laden roster.
”We know what’s in front of us,” Murray said. ”We know the opportunity is there for the taking. We’re here and now everything resets. For sure obviously we know what’s at stake.”
More NHL hockey:
The Miami Heat went to Philadelphia to open their first-round series of the NBA playoffs Tress Way Jersey , and coach Erik Spoelstra’s team did what they always do.
Get a win after losing Game 1.
Miami ran its record to 7-0 in Game 2 contests after being down 1-0 in a series under Spoelstra by beating the 76ers 113-103 on Monday to even the series at 1-1, shifting home-court advantage to the No. 6-seeded Heat.
With the Heat returning to South Beach for Game 3 on Thursday in much better spirits than after Saturday’s Game 1 drubbing, much of the credit for Miami’s surge falls squarely on Dwyane Wade, who was discarded by the Cleveland Cavaliers in their run-up to the playoffs and gridded as the second-worst jump shooter in the NBA this season.
Wade outscored Philadelphia 21-20 in the final 15 minutes of the first half. Then, after a 21-7 run by the Sixers cut Miami’s lead to a perilous two points, Spoelstra put Wade back on the court in the final minutes, and the Chicago native stepped through a portal and went back in time.
Wade stealthily swooped in on Dario Saric and hacked the ball away for a steal, then scored on a breakaway dunk. Wade then passed to a slashing James Johnson for a dunk on the next possession. Then came an offensive rebound that led to a jumper by Goran Dragic and, finally, Wade’s own long shot — a 23-foot dagger over Philly’s star rookie Ben Simmons — that iced the game.
Not too shabby for a 36-year-old near the end of his Hall of Fame career.
Wade’s numbers completely belied his age. In 26 minutes off the bench, Wade totaled 28 points on 11-of-16 shooting, seven rebounds Jim McMahon Jersey , three assists and two steals. He also posted a game-best plus-16 rating.
“I don’t care what his numbers were anywhere else or all year long or at different times. He’s (made) for these moments,” said Spoelstra, whose team won a road game in their 19th straight series, dating to 2011.
Philadelphia was riding a 27-point blowout win in Game 1 and a 17-game winning streak, including 11 straight at home.
However, Wade proved to be too much for the Sixers to overcome. And coach Brett Brown knows his team, which has played both games without injured All-Star center Joel Embiid, must prepare for the energy and production Wade provides off the Heat bench.
“There was a rhythm and a calmness to his game like he didn’t feel too much. And there was a real confidence the way he played to make those shots. That is classic Dwyane Wade,” Brown said to the media after the loss.
“Dwyane’s steal changed the game. If you were to pick one defining moment, one defining play, I think it was that.”
Embiid, who is out with an orbital fracture Reggie Wayne Jersey , was frustrated by being kept out of the Sixers’ lineup again, and a serious question remains if he will be able to play in Game 3.
He posted an Instagram story Monday saying he was “sick and tired of being babied,” and the Heat’s aggressive style and defense intensified without Embiid in the lineup.
“There’s a way you have to play in the NBA playoffs from a toughness standpoint and a physicality standpoint, and that was shown tonight,” Brown said of the Heat’s effort in Game 2.
“To me, (this game was) the reality of NBA basketball, and it only gets harder. This game equals the NBA playoffs.”
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