Last June, Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray got a ring.
It just wasn’t the kind of ring he has grown accustomed to receiving at the end of a hockey season.
It was a wedding ring.
Murray and his wife, Christina, held a surprise wedding at the couple’s lake house, letting only their closest friends and family members know in advance before a private ceremony. Murray’s prized Newfoundlands, Leo and Beckham, were his groomsmen.
“We don’t love the attention, so we did it quick, just the two of us at our lake house,” Murray said. “It was awesome. I loved it.”
Now about that other kind of ring …
At the end of his first two NHL seasons, Murray closed things with a championship.
At the end of his third season, the Penguins dropped a closely contested, six-game, second-round series to the Washington Capitals, who went on to claim the Stanley Cup a few weeks later. The Penguins could easily have rationalized that they were close to championship caliber.
At the end of his fourth season, no such excuses could be made. The Penguins had an up-and-down regular season followed by a humiliating first-round sweep at the hands of the New York Islanders.
With one day left before the start of training camp Friday in Cranberry, Murray thinks there’s one lesson the Penguins can take from their postseason failure.
“As a group, the way we handle it could be good for us, honestly,” Murray said. “We’re coming from a place where we got humbled last year. We didn’t play the right way. There’s a lot of things we can learn from that. We can take one more good look at last year and then start to move forward and heed the lessons from it.”
Murray’s comments echo those made by coach Mike Sullivan and general manager Jim Rutherford all summer. The Penguins will rebound, they say, by playing the right way.
It’s easy to see why this would appeal to a goaltender. Playing the right way, as Sullivan defines it, includes conscientious defense and puck management, thus avoiding odd-man rushes as much as possible.
“I think that’s how you win nowadays,” Murray said. “It’s not necessarily about who has the most skill anymore. It’s who’s going to play the best team game and not beat yourself. You’ve got to force the other team to beat you if you’re going to lose. That’s I think the biggest lesson we can take from last year heading into this year.”
While the Penguins have a plan to turn around their team game, Murray’s goals for the season include continuing his trajectory from a year ago. After returning from injury Dec. 15, he went 25-9-5 the rest of the way. His .930 save percentage during that span was fifth-best in the league.
“I feel good,” Murray said. “Just trying to keep building.”
As Murray’s game keeps building, he is quickly evolving from one of the younger players in the locker room to a respected veteran presence.
The kind of player that has a few rings … the championship variety as well as the wedding kind.
“Yeah, everybody’s getting old now,” Murray said. “Me and (Bryan Rust), we used to live together in Wilkes-Barre and now to see us, we both went out for dinner the other day and we were like, ‘Wow, we’re both married now. We’ve come a long way.’ ”