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Insider Only X’s & O’s: Murray, Plotnikov, Lovejoy

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X’s & O’s: READ AND ANTICIPATE

Facing a ton of NHL talent tonight, including elite talent in the likes of Steve Stamkos, second year goaltender Matt Murray had an outstanding game with 28 saves in the Penguins 4-2 win over the Lightning.

Last season during his sensational first pro season with the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins, scouts raved about Murray’s ability to anticipate the play, a key barometer for scouts determining a goaltender’s potential.

That area of Murray’s game is already at an NHL level and Murray’s excellent ability to read and anticipate shooters has drawn comparisons to Pekka Rinne from some in the hockey world.

Tonight fans got a glimpse of that.

Murray was excellent at squaring up shooters and forcing them to make the perfect shot to beat him. A few sequences stood out, both in the second period. Once where Tyler Johnson came down the left side with time and space and in a prime scoring area Murray came out and took away Johnson’s option to try to beat him glove side and the only play for Johnson was try to go upstairs blocker side and it would have taken a perfect shot to beat Murray above his right shoulder as there was so little room.

Later in the second Murray made a highlight reel glove save on Stamkos coming down the open slot, a spot Stamkos doesn’t normally miss from. Same thing for Murray on the Stamkos save, had great positioning where Stamkos needed to elevate the puck the beat him.

LOVEJOY ON THE BREAKOUT

Defenseman Ben Lovejoy was victimized by Jonathan Drouin for a second period goal that I’m sure everyone is going to be talking about.

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Drouin has amazing puck skills but Lovejoy puck watching and lunging for the poke check when he had back pressure from Evgeni Malkin just shouldn’t happen for a defenseman who’s been around as long as he’s been.

A skilled player like Drouin is going to make a No. 6/No. 7 type defenseman look silly every once in a while and that’s what Lovejoy is but that doesn’t absolve Lovejoy for looking like a rookie on the play.

The issue I continue to see with Lovejoy’s game especially with this talk from some in the media of him possibly playing in the top-4 is when he’s retrieving pucks in the defensive zone.

Lovejoy has good straight line speed to get back to pucks and coaches like that about him but his first instinct is to always fire the puck around the boards or off the glass.

For a system the Penguins run that is so predicated off the breakout and the defensemen making a strong outlet pass and then activating on the rush, Lovejoy constantly killed the Penguins transition game last season and the tape looks the same on him so far in the preseason.

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Tonight early in the first period the Penguins won a defensive zone faceoff, Lovejoy got the puck behind the net with no pressure on him and in a situation that should have been a controlled easy breakout, after holding the puck for 4.5 seconds Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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