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Pursuit: Catching up with Capitals goalie coach Scott Murray

The Sudbury resident reflects on the changing nature of the game of hockey and his evolving approach to getting the best of the game’s top netminders

In March 1996, Mike Legg would register the first lacrosse-style goal in NCAA competition – dubbed “The Michigan” these days at all levels of hockey.

In 2019, Andrei Svechnikov became the first player to manage the feat in an NHL game.

It’s been done a few more times in recent years, something that Washington Capitals goalie coach and long-time Sudbury resident Scott Murray is keenly aware of. Keeping up with the latest trends of his trade and constantly learning has always been a trademark of the friendly 41-year-old, now in his 10th year with the Capitals organization. 

“You’re always trying to evolve; there’s always new stuff that comes in,” Murray said recently. “You learn what works and what doesn’t. I’ve learned from my mistakes.”

For as much as the game of hockey itself is constantly changing, so too are the men and women who are teaching the game at all levels of the sport. 

“I think my approach now is a little more simple,” Murray said. “I try not to over-coach and look to add layers that complement what the guys already do well.

“I think I have run into trouble thinking things have to be perfect and I have to remember to not be too narrow-minded about a certain technique.”

One would think that the 2022-2023 season will be this hypothesis to the test.

The Washington Capitals have wiped the goaltending slate clean, moving on from the younger tandem of Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov, replacing them with veterans Darcy Kuemper and Charlie Lindgren. “Kuemper and Lindgren had successful years last year,” said Murray. “At this point, they’ve had at least four or five goalie coaches that they have picked stuff up from.

“I try and do as much research as far as what they implemented, what they find important to their game. I try and understand what makes them good.”

And when it comes to developing that understanding, really flushing it through, Murray has a few different sources of information at his disposal now that he has been in the league (NHL) for a while. “Through pre-scouting and doing so much video work, you definitely get a chance to see them that way,” he explained.

“But I think it’s important, especially in our unique domain as goalie coaches, that you build relationships with guys across the league or in the American League (AHL). Whether it’s the NHL, the AHL or even the OHL, it’s unbelievable how much guys are willing to share.

“In the end, we’re just trying to do right by the athlete.”

Beyond his own personal adaptation, Scott Murray has also been witness to the constantly shifting landscape of the game itself. 

“There has definitely been some evolution as far as offense,” he said. “You’ve seen a big push, whether it’s systematically or strategically, in how to think D-zone coverage.

“There is a lot more lateral stuff now. You definitely have to be aware of that as a goalie coach. It’s not just a shot game anymore; there’s definitely more options. Teams are willing to sacrifice a good opportunity for a better opportunity. You have to be aware of that.”

While his focus during video sessions is clearly on the men wearing the pads, it’s impossible not to take note, with that much evidence at your disposal, of the changes in how teams decide to attack the net, how they want to approach the challenge of creating more and more offense.

“Guys are now being really diligent as far as being an option away for the puck, even in tight,” stressed Murray. “That’s definitely come into play.”

Yet for a man who has also prided himself on treating absolutely everybody with whom he has contact with courtesy and respect, a man who is never too busy to return an interview request in a very timely manner, there is no surprise where he derives the greatest joy from a career of which he only once dreamed.

“To be honest with you, what drives me every day when I wake up is the relationships and the people you get to hang around with every day,” said Murray. “The relationships you can build is by far the best part of the job.”

It’s perhaps even better than seeing your goaltender deny “The Michigan”. 

Randy Pascal is a sportswriter in Greater Sudbury. Pursuit is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.