Forever and always shall the Penguins’ fanbase be torn apart by this one man. Since Matt Murray took over Marc-Andre Fleury‘s starting job back in 2016 it has been a constant debate as to whether that job should or should not be his. With Fleury now in the opposite conference and two Stanley Cups with Murray at the helm, it is time to look past the Fleury aspect of the situation and focus solely on Murray and his abilities.
The 2018/19 season so far, has not fared well for him.
Through the first two games of the season, Murray has allowed 11 goals on 65 shots. A lot of those were not hard shots to stop. He seems fundamentally off, and it isn’t something new.
Injuries, a common theme for Murray, have returned again this year as he has been diagnosed with a concussion and will miss an indefinite amount of time. We have a chance to see how the team looks with a slightly less experienced goaltender behind them. As to not entirely discredit Murray and his talent, the defense has looked horrific in these first two games and definitely share the blame for the 11 goals against.
Now, two Stanley Cup Championships is something you will never be able to take away from him, but he may not have been as big a part of those two wins as you thought.
In Game Six of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, the series-deciding game, Murray only had to face 19 shots in total. While he stopped 18 of those shots, the one goal, scored by Logan Couture, was a wrist shot that slipped through his pads because he was unable to get his pad down in time.
The Penguins’ defense blocked 33 shots in total that night, almost double the number of saves made by Murray. To contrast, in Game 5 of that same series was a 4-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks, the Penguins only blocked ten shots and Murray faced 21 shots and allowed three goals. So, is Murray bailing out the defense or does the defense bail out Murray?
While this is purely observational and not backed by statistics at all, it is still an important point to make.
For most of the huge saves, if you look up highlight reels for Murray, you see him making the save in tight and spreading his long legs out to block off any chance for the shooter. If you look at most of the goals scored on Murray, they are mostly wrist shots that either go over or under his glove or right through his pads because he was not quick enough to get down.
Murray, simply, is not good enough at stopping wrist shots and relies heavily on his defense to block shots. Without any shooting lanes, he hopes that the puck comes right in front of him in which he can use his size to take away any chance for the shooter.
For two years now, Murray has had the opportunity to take the league by storm and emerge as one of the game’s top goaltenders. Last year, he put up lackluster numbers and struggled through injuries for most of the year. So far this season, it seems as though he will suffer that exact same fate.