The Pittsburgh Penguins might be thankful they didn’t ship out veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury ahead of the coming campaign after Matt Murray’s sparkling post-season run, because when the season starts, the young netminder will find himself on the sideline.
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford announced Saturday that Murray, 22, suffered a broken hand during round robin play for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey. The injury is enough that Murray will almost certainly be out for the entirety of the pre-season, and the 3-6 week timeline for recovery could potentially see Murray miss the first month of the regular season. Just how severe the injury is, though, hasn’t yet been determined. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Jason Mackey, Rutherford said Murray has yet to meet with Penguins doctors.
If Murray is sidelined for the whole six weeks, he could miss the entire month of October and a dozen or more games. If the injury persists beyond the six week period, there’s a possibility he could miss an additional three games in the first week of November.
Murray’s injury came during North America’s tilt against Russia on Sept. 19, a game that Murray started but did not finish after allowing four goals on 19 shots in a 4-3 loss. All four goals against Murray came in little more than six minutes of action.
The exact moment Murray suffered the injury is hard to pinpoint, but he said post-game that it was only a minor injury and he had simply “jammed his thumb,” according to the Canadian Press. The injury was taped during the Sept. 19 game and Murray did continue to practice after suffering the ailment. However, he didn’t suit up in North America’s final game of the tournament, watching on as the young guns team closed out their tournament with a thrilling 4-3 overtime win against Sweden.
Murray was set to push Fleury for the starting gig this season, and there was a chance Murray could once again overtake his veteran counterpart for the bulk of the starts, just as he did during the post-season. Murray was remarkable in the playoffs, posting a 15-6 record, 2.08 goals-against average, .923 save percentage and one shutout en route to hoisting the Stanley Cup in his rookie season.
Murray’s performance in the playoffs shouldn’t have come as much of a shock, however. He showed signs of his incredible talent throughout his rookie year in the AHL — he was the league’s top goaltender and rookie of the year in 2014-15 — and posted a 9-2-1 record, 2.00 GAA and .930 SP with one shutout in 13 appearances during the regular seasons for the Penguins.
With Murray on the shelf, though, the Penguins will turn to Fleury as their definite No. 1. There are much worse hands to be dealt than that. Fleury was one of the Penguins best players during a difficult first half of the season under former coach Mike Johnston, and Fleury continued to excel under Mike Sullivan.
Fleury had to battle through concussion issues during the 2015-16 campaign, but he managed to post a stellar 35-17-6 record, 2.29 GAA and .921 SP to go along with five shutouts. Statistically, it was one of the best seasons of Fleury’s career, and it came in the first season of his new four-year, $23-million deal.
Murray’s injury will also have an impact on the backup situation in Pittsburgh, as one of Tristan Jarry or Sean Maguire will almost certainly be brought up as insurance for Fleury while Murray is out of action.
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