Do You Have The Confidence of Matt Murray?

He’s probably got some puck luck and skill too..not to mention a talented team in front of him.

Watching Game 3 of the Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series, I realized that I look at hockey so much differently than even a few weeks ago.  I feel like I can “read” the game better than ever before – almost like I understand where the guys on the ice are going to go.
Hearing Pierre McGuire talk about how rookie Penguins goaltender Matt Murray goes to hang out at the Pens’ bench during television time-outs and jokes with the rest of the team just reinforces one of the major lessons that I’ve learned on my own: confidence. It’s the hardest lesson that I’ve had to learn, even more so than keeping my back straight so I don’t keep falling on my face.

If I don’t keep a good posture I have this terrible habit of bending forward and crashing forward onto the ice.  Once I fall, I do my best to get up as fast as I can and correct it.  Although after a couple of weeks of skating with my head up and back straighter, I can feel that I’m getting it.  I understand it.  I’m confident in my skating. Well to a point.  I’m not confident in stopping.  I’m not confident that I can get there fast and I’m certainly not confident that I can go backward.  I might be able to go backward for a couple of strides, but I am not going to be the last D man on the break.  Otherwise you can be sure I’ll be on my ass sliding the whole way down the ice.

With 19:00 minutes to go in the third period of Game 3 young goalie Murray has a shutout of the Caps going (I know I’m going to be the one to curse him by saying this – i’m not superstious or anything but I know some players are).   To be fair, you can see his confidence has been growing since the New York Rangers series, when he strolled into Madison Square Garden and shutout the Blueshirts and King Henrik Lundqvist.

It’s amazing to me what confidence can do, I remember when I first stepped back on the ice for the public skate with my daughter.  It had been almost 20 years since I had been in a pair of ice skates and I sure as hell was not confident as I nervously got onto the ice at the Rev. All those little kids who were out there were much more confident prancing around doing all kinds of moves and showing their moms and dads their best tricks.

Meanwhile I’m taking a short stride and feeling like there’s two sticks of butter on my feet and I’m skating on a pan covered in non-stick cooking spray.  I was able to skate from one side of the ice to the other and skate down to the far end of the rink where no one was – that felt like a huge victory for me!  Looking back at it, it makes me laugh.  I do that as soon as I make a lap now.  Can you imagine?  But back then, I had no confidence in my skating and my legs just shook.

Under 13 minutes to go in Murray’s shutout bid and the kid is seeing the puck really well. Uh oh.  I just did it.  So much for that shutout.  Then again, the Penguins gave Ovechkin all the room in the world to shoot.  Come on, even I know you can’t do that!  

I think confidence is the reason that I have spent money on new skates and sticks when I’ve still got so far to go.  I think part of me feels like if I have good skates then I can’t blame them for me not being able to skate well.  It makes me work harder or push myself harder at skating because I know it’s not because the blades can’t handle it.  Or if I stick handle or shoot at net, I want a great stick because it’s going to push me to work on making my passes better and my accuracy better.  

Even the little details I have to tell myself to do, like when I receive a pass to cradle it like an egg, thanks Steve, or that movement of the stick to top shelf a shot.  If I’m confident I have the gear to do it in then I have to be confident in me, which means I have to go get on the ice and just do it.

That’s easier said than done of course.  If confidence came in a bottle I’d buy all the cases I could find. I still remember the first time I went to skills class and how nervous I was because I didn’t know anyone.  I thought I’d hold up the drills when I fell and went slow.  But everyone was cool and I gained so much every time I went out.  I’ve come so far but have so far to go.  Murray told his mom he’d be an NHL starting goalie when he was an 11 year old, so I can be a better player one day as long as I have confidence.