Matt Murray’s 2014-15 AHL campaign was one for the ages, but the 21-year-old netminder won’t be parlaying it into a promotion to the NHL quite yet.
After a season in which Murray was named the AHL rookie of the year, won the honor as the league’s top goaltender, got a first all-star team nod and split the award for lowest team goals-against average with teammate Jeff Zatkoff, it wouldn’t have been shocking had Murray earned himself a call up. Turns out, however, that the Penguins coaching staff wants to make sure Murray can keep growing.
“He’s not coming in here and beating out Marc-Andre Fleury and taking over this team,” Pittsburgh assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald told the Penguins’ website. “We love what we have down the line here, and it is down the line. He just turned 21. He needs to play hockey games. You can’t develop if he’s sitting on the bench. That’s just a fact.”
While that’s certainly true, one would have to forgive Penguins fans if they’re already ready to see what Murray can do at the NHL level. In his first AHL campaign, and first professional season, Murray set the AHL’s all-time shutout streak record and his numbers were better than experienced AHL netminders such as Jacob Markstrom, Malcolm Subban and Scott Clemmensen.
“I’m really going into it with an open mind and not trying to expect anything,” Murray said. “Just (want to) compete and play my heart out every time I’m out on the ice.
“Confidence kind of comes with experience and playing time, so the more I play and develop in the net, the more comfortable I feel. Hopefully that continues and I keep playing a lot of games and building confidence.”
The pressure will be on for Murray to post something similar to the 25-10-3, 12-shutout, 1.58 GAA, .941 save percentage year he had in 2014-15, but he is looking for there to be more to his game than regular season heroics.
“The individual records kind of don’t mean a thing at the end of the year,” Murray said. “At the end of the day we got knocked out in the second round. You’re in this game to win championships at the end of the year and to win the last game of the season. The awards are great and everything, but we’re past that.”
Whether he makes the NHL this season, next season or three years down the line, that’s the kind of mentality the Penguins are likely happy to see out of the netminder who could be Pittsburgh’s future between the pipes.