Hank on Sabres: Tracking the Young Guns: Brett Murray
Ek's Note: I am still waiting to talk to two of our candidates prior to my decision on our next GREAT Sabres Writer, but I asked Hank to write a story today..
This series will focus on potential up-and-comers for the Buffalo Sabres. Tonight, we will track the first NHL game of 22-year-old Brett Murray, the 228 lb, 6’5” winger who leads the Rochester Americans in scoring this year. In a lost season like this, it’s imperative that the Sabres identify which pieces could potentially be useful going forward and a big-bodied guy like Murray could carve out a niche for himself on a relatively small team like the Sabres. Is it a mistake to track the shifts of a guy who may only play 10 minutes tonight? Only time will tell.
Shift 1: It’s fitting that the big man is wearing the #57 jersey of former tall-guy Sabre Tyler Myers. Murray was a bit scrambly in both the offensive and defensive zone. After the puck went into the defensive zone, the puck rang off the post behind Michael Houser following a Penguin point shot but it stays out of the net.
Shift 2: Faceoff in the defensive zone. Murray breaks up the cycling pass and feeds it up the middle. Murray gets the puck back and releases a shot on the give-and-go after the puck finds its way back to him. The shot misses to the far side and finds its way back to center ice. Murray dumps it back in.
Shift 3: Rasmus Ristolainen’s outlet pass hits Murray’s skate in the neutral zone. The puck careens toward Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry who holds on for the faceoff.
Shift 4: Trapped in the defensive zone. The puck finally pops off Murray’s skate, into the neutral zone and down the ice.
Shift 5: Murray creates more havoc in front of the Penguins net as Jacob Bryson feeds a net-mouth pass to the big winger. Murray had a good look at his first NHL goal, but his deflection didn’t find its way to the back of the net.
First Period Thoughts: Murray did not see time on the penalty kill resulting from the tripping penalty to Arttu Ruotsalainen. If Murray is to carve out time in the Sabres bottom 6, he will need to be versatile and play special teams. Murray found his footing as the period went along but it’s unclear whether he has NHL speed. His willingness to drive the goal and create havoc in front is a welcome addition to the Sabres.
Shift 6: Defensive zone faceoff won and immediately pounded down the ice by Ristolainen. On the ensuing play, Murray drives the middle and stands up the opposing Penguin defender at the offensive blue line.
Shift 7: Murray throws his body into the corner and then goes to the front of the net. Colin Miller’s pass finds Drake Caggiula in front and Murray provides the screen for the goal. 3-3 tie.
Shift 8: After two quick Penguins goals it’s 5-3 (but we’re not worried about that). Murray receives a nice net-front pass from Caggiula but Jarry hangs on. It’s good to see Murray drive the net hard and look for pucks. Rob Ray rightfully calls it a “great opportunity” on the Sabres broadcast.
Shift 9: Murray provides the screen for a Ristolainen point shot that misses the mark and then he waits in front of the net for another shot that never comes.
Shift 10: Murray on the power play. Nah, I’m just kidding. We’re not going to see Murray with the man advantage.
Second Period Thoughts: Murray is a +1 after two periods and he clearly delivers in the area of producing screens in front of the net. His size and screen ability was on display for Caggiula’s second goal. Despite a deficiency in speed, the hulking winger has a knack for finding himself in front of the net at the right time. He hasn’t made any enormous blunders which is a plus when fighting for a bottom-six spot. Big guy has played a team-low 7:41 to this point.
Shift 11: Well it’s 3:03 into the third period and we haven’t seen Murray yet as interim coach Don Granato shortens his bench in an effort to put his best goal scorers out there. Jeff Carter scores his fourth goal of the night for the Penguins and it’s 6-3.
Shift 12: Five-and-a-half minutes into the third and Murray gets his first uneventful shift of the period.
Shift 13: Murray feeds the puck back to Samuelsson at the point and the Sabres get a shot attempt. It’s 7-3 Penguins by the way, but who’s counting?
Shift 14: Not really a shift because Murray isn’t playing, but the only players on the good side of the +/- ledger are Riley Sheahan, Caggiula and Murray. They’re a combined +4. So that’s good. 8-4 Pittsburgh.
Shift 15: He got finally got a shift. Uneventful. “That’s all I have to say about that” - Forrest Gump.
There are only so many different ways to say that Murray’s game consists of going hard to the net, but yeah, Murray goes hard to the net. He wasn’t on the ice for any goals against, he had a quality scoring chance, and he provided the screen on a goal. It’s way too soon to say whether he’ll be anything useful for the Sabres but his size and net-front presence is certainly intriguing despite his lack of speed. He was one of three Sabres players who ended up on the positive end of the plus/minus ledger. Not bad for a first performance.