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Matt Murray: Year In Review

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Ottawa Senators v Vancouver Canucks Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images

Welcome back to our Year in Review feature at SilverSevenSens, where we re-visit the past season for key members of the Ottawa Senators. We’ve previously profiled the following players:

Drake Batherson

Erik Brännström

Connor Brown

Josh Brown

Thomas Chabot

Evgeni Dadonov

Alex Formenton

Victor Mete

Josh Norris

Nick Paul

Shane Pinto

Tim Stützle

Chris Tierney

Brady Tkachuk

Austin Watson

Colin White

Anton Forsberg

Today we’re turning our attention to goaltender Matt Murray, who was acquired from the Penguins in September 2020 and has quickly become one of the most polarizing players on the team.

By The Numbers

Murray was in net for 27 Ottawa Senators games this season - that’s more than any other Sens goaltender. Unfortunately, he also put up the worst numbers of his career in those 27 games, with a .893 SV% and a 3.38(!) GAA. That was somehow still better than Marcus Hogberg’s numbers, but it placed him among the worst starting goaltenders in the NHL.

Looking at the more advanced numbers on Natural Stat Trick, nothing really jumps out as an explanation for his poor play. He wasn’t facing an unusually high number of high danger shots, and the goals were going in from a pretty big distance. It looks like he was just bad at stopping pucks.

In slightly better news, though, his numbers did improve a lot toward the end of the season. He even logged the Sens’ only two shutouts of 2020-21.

It’s kind of hard to tell which version of Matt Murray is the real one. It’s difficult to overlook those numbers from the first half of the season, but the Sens were so bad at the start that I’m almost tempted to outright disregard any stat from that period of time. But then again, to what extent was Matt Murray the reason for the Sens’ poor record?

Story of the Season

Matt Murray was acquired during the 2020 offseason after a down year with the Penguins. He was expected to provide both stability in net and a bit of veteran leadership - two things the Sens were lacking after parting ways with Craig Anderson.

Murray was never going to replace Anderson, and I don’t think anyone expected him to, but I think it’s safe to say we collectively expected more from him. I mean, we know better than anyone how good he can be when he’s on his game.

Too soon? Sorry.

Anyways, as previously discussed, Murray had a very bad start to the season. Neither he nor Marcus Hogberg looked like they could stop a beach ball for a little while there, and yes the team was playing badly, but it really felt like every good shot was going in. It didn’t feel like a coincidence when Joey Daccord showed up at the end of February and the team pretty much immediately turned things around.

Murray was injured at the end of March, missing 14 games. Only a few days after he was activated off IR, the Sens replaced their goaltending coach, noting that goaltending had been a problem all season. It’s hard to tell how much of a difference that change made, but Murray returned a changed man. In five games, he posted two shutouts and his SV% didn’t dip below 9.14. Was it the new coach? A better team in front of him? Or just strange goalie magic? I do not know.

Unfortunately, just as Murray was starting to look like his old self again, another injury kept him off the ice for the rest of the season.

He was exposed in the expansion draft, but unsurprisingly, the Kraken passed on him, opting instead for Joey Daccord.

Future Outlook

As far as I can tell, the plan is to keep Matt Murray as the starting goaltender. He’s signed until 2024-25, at an AAV of 6,250,000, so it would not be easy to get rid of him. It also might still be too early to give up on him - everyone sucked during the first few games of the season, and the numbers Murray put up at the end were extremely impressive.

So which version of Matt Murray should we expect to see going forward? I have no idea. But it looks like the Sens are going to give him another chance as a starter. If things go well, he can hold down the fort for the next few years, at least until one of the many prospects in the Ottawa Senators organization turns into a starter. If they don’t go well, let’s hope those prospects are ready to make the jump.

Basically, a lot is riding on Matt Murray’s performance in 2021-22.