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How Maple Leafs Matt Murray Handles the Intense Stress of Shootouts

Can you imagine being an NHL goalie during the intense stress of a shootout? How does Toronto Maple Leafs’ Matt Murray handle the stress?

The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Ottawa Senators 5-4 on Saturday night in a most unique way. Tied 4-4, the teams went to overtime. When overtime didn’t settle it, they went to a shootout.

What made this shootout so unique was that it went nine rounds before Alex Kerfoot became the instant hero when he put one through the Senator’s goalie’s five-hole for the winner. The Maple Leafs’ goalie Matt Murray weathered the storm. However, on the other end of the ice Senators’ goalie Mads Sogaard took the loss.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Murray, Jarnkrok, Marner & McMann

Matt Murray Was Exhausted During the Shootout

After the game, Matt Murray made a curious admission. “I wasn’t watching, just listening,” he noted. He also admitted that the marathon shootout had him exhausted.

Murray’s unique way of dealing with the pressure of the shootout suggests how (a) stressful and (b) tiring a shootout can be. As Murray noted, he wasn’t watching his own team’s shooters; instead, he had his head in his hands resting and listening to the action.

Murray “joked” that the marathon shootout had him exhausted. He was physically and mentally drained as a result of the experience. However, his heroics during the nine-round shootout helped the Maple Leafs win a game and that was the key.

In fact, Murray’s ability to manage the pressure was likely a key factor in the team’s success.

Murray Speaks About the Mental and Physical Exhaustion of the Marathon Shootouts

In the video below, you can watch and listen to Murray speak about how tired he was during the shootout.

Murray’s statement tells fans that shootouts can be an incredibly intense and stressful experience for goalies. When Murray describes keeping his head down and burying it in his hands during the shootout, it’s a clear indication that he was feeling tons of pressure and anxiety. At the same time, he mentions how fun it is to be part of such an exciting and emotional game.

Of course, getting that extra point was rewarding. Murray also acknowledges that shootouts are their own kind of animal because anything can happen in a shootout. That high degree of unpredictability also gives the situation another layer of difficulty.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Question: How Much Should Matt Murray Be Playing?

What Must the Pressure Be Like for Goalies During Shootouts?

Listening to Murray talk about the pressure of a shootout made me think about what that pressure might be like for goalies during shootouts. So I set out to find what other goalies said about the pressure of the situation.

Goalies note that shootouts are really a high-pressure situation for both goalies and shooters in the NHL. Because the game is tied and one score or save can mean the difference between a win and a loss, the pressure is intense.

From a goalie’s perspective, shootouts are particularly stressful because they’re left alone – one-on-one with some of the best shooters in the league. In addition, the outcome of the game rests directly on their performance.

Goalies must make quick decisions about how to defend against each shooter’s approach. Should a goalie stay back in the net, or challenge the shooter? How should he position himself to make a save?

The pressure is compounded because the margin for error is slim in shootouts. One mistake will (not can) cost the game.

Most Goalies Are Just Like Murray – They, too, Feel the Pressure

A number of NHL goalies have spoken about the intense pressure they feel during shootouts. Some describe it as one of the most nerve-wracking experiences in the sport. However, some goalies love and thrive in such difficult situations.

During the shootout coming their way, a number of goalies discuss the strategies they’ve created to manage the pressure. For example, some talk about staying focused on the shooter’s movements and not getting too caught up in the moment.

Murray has all those strategies, but his strategy when he’s resting struck me as unique. He doesn’t even watch his own team’s shooters. (How could he not?) He can tell from the crowd’s reaction whether his teammate has scored or missed scoring.

What a unique situation, these shootouts for goalies. It takes a special kind of mindset to handle it.




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