It appears that the Pittsburgh Penguins got the memo that they needed to improve their play in a hurry if they wanted to still be considered a Cup contender.
After struggling out of the gate, the team is now 24-13-6 with 54 points. This currently has them just two points behind the Washington Capitals for the Metropolitan Division lead and also has them tied for ninth in the NHL.
That is quite a turnaround from how they started. In the beginning of the year, they were highly inconsistent, struggled in many areas of the game, and struggled to keep the puck out of their net consistently.
The last point is key because the team is now doing a much better job of that. As of this writing the Pens are 12th in the league in goals allowed, which is a big improvement of where they were in the beginning of the season.
Believe it or not, their improvement in this area is due to their 24-year-old netminder Matt Murray. Yes, this is the same netminder that has a deep injury history and one that I have written about numerous times.
Unlike the other times, however, there is nothing but positives to say when it comes to Murray. He is currently on an eight-game winning streak thanks to his 36 save winning effort o the Florida Panthers back on January 8.
Murray has allowed two goals or fewer in seven of his eight starts and is playing like the goaltender that he was in his first few seasons of his career. If he continues to play this way, it will be absolutely huge for this hockey club.
There are a few reasons why Murray is playing so well right now. It starts with his confidence level.
He is challenging shooters, he is fighting to stop pucks, and it looks like he is very aware of what is going on around him on the ice. With the way he is playing right now, he’s probably not afraid of getting hurt, which is huge when it comes to his injury history.
Secondly, he’s technical skills appear to be returning to him. He is putting himself in position to stop not only the first shot, but second and third opportunities as well.
What’s great about his positioning is that he is no longer leaving himself vulnerable to bad goals. He is playing the angles well, he seems to always know where he is in the net, and more importantly, he is control between the pipes.
Lastly, another reason why he is playing so well is because he is Matt Murray. Remember, this is a guy who led this franchise to back-to-back Cups, has 80 career regular season wins, has 43 career postseason wins, and is someone that when he is healthy, is a top-tier goaltender in this league.
This could not have come at a better time for this hockey club. This team did not look good the first few months of the season and now, they look like Cup contenders.
Murray is perhaps the biggest reason for that.