Name: Matt Murray
Age: 23 (Turned 24 on May 25th)
2017/2018 Stats: 49 GP/27-16-4/1 SO/2.92 GAA/.907 SV%
Playoffs: 12 GP/6W/2 SO/2.43 GAA/.908 SV%
Murray’s .907 save percentage for the season fell well below his projected save percentage of .920 and that really says a lot about the season he had. It also says a lot about the play in front of him but he needs to be better in certain instances and he knows that. Still only 24 years old, Murray will have a full offseason to rest and rehabilitate any lingering injuries from a season plagued by them.
He only played in 49 games this season which is well below what you expect from your number one goaltender. Injuries throughout the season played a significant role in that number and it’s something that likely affected his play. The brief stretches where Murray actually had consistent playing time he was posting better than league average numbers.
In the same amount of games played during the 2016/2017 season, Murray posted .923 save percentage and a 2.41 goals against. He was splitting time with Marc-Andre Fleury but was healthier over the course of a season. Returning to those numbers while playing a healthy 60-65 games a season will reaffirm Murray’s status as one of the best goalies in the NHL.
Based on cap hit, these four goalies compared closest to Murray from last season. Martin Jones will be getting a pay raise when his new deal kicks in next season and he’ll be turning 29 in January. Age wise, Andrei Vasilevskiy and John Gibson are closest to Murray at 23 and 25 respectively. Murray posted a better high danger save percentage than all four goalies fell below all four during even strength.
Once Jones’ new contract kicks in, Murray’s cap hit of $3.75 million per season will be the third richest deal when compared to the others. While Jones has earned that pay raise, the same cannot be said for Jake Allen who is making $4.35 million against the salary cap. Allen has consistently underperformed expectations and his play was a major season the Blues were watching the playoffs from home this year.
That bright red area right in front of the goal crease is not a good sign for the Penguins. Giving up that many shot attempts that close to goal is never a good recipe no matter who your goalie is. Murray’s high danger save percentage could have been better, but he was still in the top third of all goalies this season. Better play from the defense and a slight uptick in save percentage from Murray next season could go a long way for the Penguins.
Monthly Splits and Other Stats
Everything started out well for Murray this season, playing 21 games over the course of the first two months before injuries began to take their toll. January is a month Murray will try and forget with the passing of his father, forcing him away from the team to be with his family.
Following his return from his father’s passing, Murray went on an incredible 8-0-1 run when he returned to the team and collected consistent playing time for the first time since November. It makes you wonder how much his father’s health weighed on him during the early part of the season.
Unfortunately, that strong run of play came to a halt when Murray went down with a concussion and was forced out of action once again. He only played in eight games from March to the end of the season and he was never the same goalie following the concussion though he did show glimpses of greatness. Hopefully this extended offseason does him well and he returns to that February form next season.
Rest is often a key factor in how a goaltender performs which is why you rarely see goalies making starts on back-to-back nights if it can be avoided. Murray was abysmal when playing on no rest this season with a GAA over 5.00 and no wins in those games. He only started twice in back-to-back scenarios but he wasn’t hot in relief either.
Murray’s best numbers came on just one day of rest which may show that playing consistently while still receiving time off helps Murray remain in a groove rather than becoming rusty on the bench.
Maybe it wasn't entirely Matt Murray's fault after all.— Jason Mackey (@JMackeyPG) June 5, 2018
This tweet from Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is in reference to Murray’s play during the Capitals series where a lot of the blame for the Penguins series lost fell on the shoulders of the young goalie. Mackey crunched the numbers for the four different goalies the Capitals faced during their run to the Stanley Cup, and it turns out, Murray performed the best out of all of them against the Capitals this post season.
Quotes and Praise
“Obviously it’s no fun to have people doubt you, but at the end of the day, you can go ahead and doubt me, you can do whatever the hell you want, it really doesn’t impact me.” --Matt Murray
“He’s a mentally tough kid. He’s a real resilient kid. He doesn’t let any of the outside noise, or if he thought he should have had one of the goals, he doesn’t let that stuff affect him.” --Mike Sullivan
“It’s surprising how a young guy has this much focus, the way he prepares himself. He is a character guy. He always bounces back. For our team, he is a huge part of us. He calms us down when things don’t go our way. He was big for us tonight.” --Kris Letang
“He’s really strong mentally and obviously he’s played in a lot of big games. He’s got high expectations of himself but we always have confidence.” --Sidney Crosby
“Matt Murray won two Stanley Cups as a rookie.” --Penguins fans
Matt Murray uses the paddle to take away a goal from Ovechkin pic.twitter.com/wuX2gqwnSH— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 29, 2018
Matt Murray has five shutouts in 31 playoff starts, including three straight and four in his past 10 postseason starts. To put that into perspective, he has six career regular-season shutouts in 105 starts. #Pens— Wes Crosby (@OtherNHLCrosby) April 12, 2018
Without much fanfare, Matt Murray improved to 8-0-1 in his last 9 games & extended his career-high unbeaten streak to 9 games, & home winning streak to 7, also a career high. With the victory, he tied Jean-Sebastian Aubin for 5th on the #pens all-time wins list with 63.— Vince Comunale (@PGHVC) February 18, 2018
Penguins win it. Power-play comes up big. Matt Murray just bonkers late.— Jason Mackey (@JMackeyPG) November 2, 2017
Boy, Matt Murray has been good tonight/this homestand/all season.— Sam Werner (@SWernerPG) October 27, 2017
Holy hell what a save Matt Murray pic.twitter.com/WCsjdHOk5x— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) October 25, 2017
Regular season: B-
It’s really hard to give Murray a grade for the regular season given all the injuries he suffered which cut down on his playing time. When he was playing consistently we saw flashes of how good he can be but never for longer than a few weeks.
Many fans will point to Murray’s play as a major reason the Penguins were eliminated in the second round. While that argument does hold some water, the analysis done by Mackey also shows Murray was not as bad as some suggest against the Capitals. His save percentage was almost identical to the regular season and his GAA actually improved.
Fancy Stats: B
Not great but not awful. When compared to other goalies carrying a similar cap hit Murray is above them in some areas but behind them in others. His high danger SV% was good enough to finish in the top third of the league.
You expect more than 49 games played from your number one goaltender but when your season is riddled with injuries like Murray’s this is what happens. He played 21 games in the first two months then just 28 from December through April. Not counting the absence for his father’s passing, Murray simply couldn’t shake the injury bug and affected his play all season long.
Overall 2017/2018 Grade: B-
Some may thing I’m being too kind to Murray with this grade but looking at the big picture, his season was not as bad as the numbers may show and injuries limited any consistent playing time. During his stretches of health, he posted at or above average numbers for a goaltender and you could see superstar in him coming out.
This was not a fun season for Murray and various factors contributed to that. At only 24 years of age, Murray is still developing his game so there will be some growing pains (ie: glove hand). He has proven time and time again since coming to the NHL that he can overcome adversity and bounce back. It was a staple of what made him so great during the 2016 and 2017 Stanley Cup runs and next season will be another chance for him to show off that ability.
With good health and consistent playing time, there is no reason Matt Murray can’t backstop the Penguins for the next decade and hopefully a few more Stanley Cups.
How would you grade Matt Murray’s 2017/2018 season?
This poll is closed
A+ or A
A- or B+
B or B-
C+ or C