By Mike Commito
By this point in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Matt Murray has become a household name. But for those of us in the Northwest, the Thunder Bay netminder has already been considered among the premier goalies to come out of the Lakehead.
Drafted eighty-third overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Murray is now establishing himself as a bona fide starter in the NHL. Although he spent most of this year with the Penguins’ AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he shone in a late season recall, picking up nine wins with a combined .930 SV%.
Despite missing the start of the postseason, while recovering from an upper body injury, Murray returned in game 3 in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals and has been near lights out ever since. Heading into the first game of the Stanley Cup Final, Murray is 11-4 and boasts a .924 SV%, the third highest this postseason. The Walleye spoke to Matt Murray about the Stanley Cup Playoffs and his hometown.
The Walleye: What does a typical game day routine look like for you in the playoffs?
Matt Murray: I’m not very superstitious, so no real rituals or anything like that. I listen to music on the bus on the way to games or in my car on the way to the rink. I do all the same stretches, eat at the same time, that type of thing. The usual, nothing too crazy, definitely no superstitions or anything like that.
TW: Have you ever tried to explain to your teammates in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton or Pittsburgh what a persian is?
MM: [laughs] My girlfriend has actually brought me a couple of persians when she has come to visit and I think Rusty [Penguins forward Bryan Rust] might have tried one, so he got to witness the greatness of the persian. It’s an old Thunder Bay classic, they don’t have them anywhere else. It’s like the taste of home, it’s the one thing I ask for when people come to visit.
TW: If you’re getting pancakes in Thunder Bay, where are you going? Hoito or Scan House?
MM: I’m not much of a pancake house guy myself, I’ve never been to the Scan House, but I’ve been to the Hoito, so I’d have to say, if I were to pick, I’d go with the Hoito.
TW: You have the Sleeping Giant on your mask. What does it mean to you to have Thunder Bay in the crease with you?
MM: I think I went out there once or twice when I’m really young, but I put it on there because it’s kind of the thing that makes Thunder Bay famous and it’s a pretty famous landmark in Canada. Literally, the last thing you see before you put your helmet on is the back of your helmet, so I put my Mum’s initials, my Dad’s initials, and just a little ode to my hometown, just for that extra inspiration because I’m proud to be from Thunder bay and it’s a nice thing to look at just before you go out on the ice.
Mike Commito is a hockey historian from Sudbury, Ontario and the research coordinator at Northern Policy Institute. You can follow him on Twitter @mikecommito.