How good has the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Matt Murray been? He’s been really good. And I mean, really good.
Murray has had a single iffy game – the first game of the season – when he lost against the Montreal Canadiens. Since then, he’s been nothing but stellar.
Fans’ Concerns When Murray Was Picked Up
Of course, as many Maple Leafs’ fans worried when Murray was picked up in a trade with the Ottawa Senators, he fell victim to one of the things that bothered them about him as a goalie. He suffered an adductor injury and missed several games.
That said, since his return, he’s been solid. He’s been run over a few times in the net; but, he’s gotten up, shaken himself a few times, and then proceeded to keep stopping the puck.
The second concern about Murray was that he had been so unsuccessful in recent seasons. His tenure with the Senators was filled with difficulties. In fact, just over a year ago, he passed through waivers without any interest at all. He was sent to the Belleville Senators.
Being a Good Goalie Can Be (Mostly Is?) Mental
A year later, what a surprise. Murray is thriving with the Maple Leafs. Part of that is his skill (and his success) has returned. However, being a good goalie is partly being in charge of yourself mentally. Murray inspires confidence in his teammates; and, vice versa. His teammates inspire confidence in Murray.
It helps when the team plays well and the coaching staff creates situations and systems where you can succeed. That’s exactly what the Maple Leafs have done – and perhaps that’s exactly what general manager Kyle Dubas was counting on (and was betting the house on) when he picked Murray up.
The Maple Leafs are a good team that plays solid team defence. Would that be able to create a situation of success? The answer thus far has been Yes!
This Season’s Maple Leafs Are Not Last Season’s Senators
Part of Murray’s problem with the Senators was that the defence in front of him was not nearly as strong as the Maple Leafs’ defence currently is in front of Murray this season.
But that doesn’t explain everything. Since his return from injury, Murray’s been nothing but stellar. He’s not lost a single game in regulation. I recall one poor goal, which was the Tampa Bay Lightning score that beat the Maple Leafs 4-3 in overtime.
Other than that muff, Murray’s stopped everything – or almost everything – that’s come his way.
The 4-0 Shutout Against the Dallas Stars
Last night, Murray shut out a really strong Dallas Stars team. In that game, the Stars pressured and pressured. At the end of the second period, the Maple Leafs were on the penalty kill – in fact, they were two men short. In addition, these two men included some of their strongest penalty killers.
Yet, in that flurry of activity, Murray stood tall and stopped everything that came his way.
I cannot know this for certain, but I can imagine that when the Maple Leafs went to their locker room at the end of the second period, there were cheers and back-slapping. On the other hand, when the Stars went back into their own locker room, they were deflated.
Although about half a minute remained in the penalties when the third period started, those penalties were killed off quite easily. The Stars kept coming – but only a little. The game was over before it was really over.
The Maple Leafs scored an additional goal into an empty net, but the Stars did not generate the same kind of energy around the net they had during the first two periods.
Murray’s Goalie Stats Were the Best Since They’ve Been Tracked
Last night, Murray might have had the best game any NHL goalie has had this season. According to MoneyPuck.com, Murray had a goals-saved-above-expected at 5.979. It was the highest statistical effort ever recorded in a shutout since these statistics have been tracked.
Murray was strong in the net, which has been the case all season. He now ranks fifth among goaltenders at a 5-on-5 save percentage (at .937). He also has a strong 4.22 goals saved above average.
Is Murran Already A Vezina Trophy Candidate?
If this kind of performance continues, Murray should be considered already as a Vezina Trophy candidate for the 2022-23 season. It was a risky move for the Maple Leafs to bring him into the organization; but, it’s a move that’s paying off.
The short answer to the big question before the Maple Leafs started the season is Yes! Murray can carry this team. Yes. He gives the Maple Leafs a chance to win every game.