View Full Version : Checker Murray has found right team, right coaches

04-27-2006, 03:28 PM
from reginapats.com

Checker Murray has found right team, right coaches

Canadian Press
Published: Thursday, April 27, 2006

MONTREAL (CP) -- Garth Murray may have ended up on just the right team when he was acquired by the Montreal Canadiens on Sept. 30 -- one day before the start of the NHL regular season.

The 6-foot-2 winger found himself in an organization loaded with small, quick forwards that was looking for players like him -- grinders with size and muscle.

And with Bob Gainey as general manager and head coach and Guy Carbonneau joining in midseason as head-coach-in-waiting, he didn't have to score a lot of goals or make any fancy plays to impress the bosses.

In their playing days, Gainey and Carbonneau were two of the league's best defensive forwards.

"The coaches I have here have made a living from being really strong defensively and killing penalties," Murray said Wednesday before Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with Carolina. "They were really great all-around players and that's what I've tried to do all my life. If I needed any coaches who would appreciate that, those are the two guys right there."

After starting the season with Hamilton in the AHL and working his way slowly into the lineup after his call-up in December, Murray played the final 18 games of the regular season and kept his spot when the playoffs started.

The Regina native, who had no previous NHL playoff experience, has skated on a checking line with Radek Bonk and Niklas Sundstrom, two players coming off sub-par seasons who have lifted their game for the playoffs.

Murray was held without a point as Montreal took the first two games in North Carolina, but averaged 14 minutes of ice time per game and contributed with some big hits, blocked shots and penalty killing.

And with crashing centre Steve Begin out with a knee injury, the Canadiens needed "energy" players who can keep the team on its toes with aggressive forechecking and hitting.

"You've got to try to find yourself a role," he said. "Every year, I've tried to get better defensively and on the penalty kill and make sure I bring energy every night to the guys.

"That's sort of what I've settled into."

The 23-year-old was a decent scorer in junior hockey with the Regina Pats, scoring 33 goals in 2001-02 and being named to Canada's world junior championship team.

He was taken in the third round of the 2001 draft by the New York Rangers and spent most of three seasons with their AHL club in Hartford. He played 20 regular-season games for New York in 2003-04, scoring one goal.

Gainey shipped underperforming winger Marcel Hossa to the Rangers for Murray in the first of three moves this season to add size and character to the club. He later dealt for tough guy Aaron Downey and big defenceman Todd Simpson.

In 36 games for Montreal, Murray had five goals, one assist and 44 penalty minutes, but showed himself a strong forechecker who, although not a full-time enforcer, is willing to drop the gloves when challenged.

On a Montreal team that has been short of physical play in recent years, Murray proved a useful addition.

"New York hardly had any injuries at all this year," he said. "They maybe had 10 games all year for guys in the AHL, so there wouldn't have been much opportunity for guys like myself. So the trade's been a blessing for me, for sure."

While Murray played during the Canadiens drive for a playoff spot in the final month of the season, veteran players like Sundstrom and winger Jan Bulis spent plenty of nights in the press box.

But once the playoffs started, all three have skated a regular shift and found effective roles on the team.

"I'm not surprised because they're good players," said Gainey. "It's about finding the right place for them and hoping to find them at the upper part of that arc of their play.

"Murray's a slightly different example in that he's gained momentum as the year went on -- starting in the AHL, getting a few games, then going back. That's a different player at a different time in his career than Jan Bulis or Niklas Sundstrom."

Now, Murray hopes he is in the NHL to stay, although he won't take that for granted.

"You always try to improve your game and bring more to the team," he said. "It's a process."

04-28-2006, 11:11 AM
It's awesome to see and ex-Pat and good local boy doing well. He was always a treat to watch.