So far, in our re-visiting of our Sterling Predictions from October, we’ve looked at leading scorers and trades during the season. Part 3 was concerning one of the most crucial areas of the team — goaltending. As remarkable of a disaster as it was last year, there were signs of improvement that made us somewhat optimistic about improvement this season. And while our expectations were surpassed, the main source of that improvement was a surprise.
Will Matt Murray rebound and regain his form from his time in Pittsburgh? Who starts the most games in net for Ottawa this year?
Despite his 5-12-2 record, Murray’s .906 save percentage was certainly adequate enough such that the team could’ve given him a couple of more wins with better play, and he improved over his .893 last season. Every staff member predicted an improvement to some degree, with a general consensus that he’d be pretty good, but not able to live up to his $6.25M cap hit. Among those who guessed his exact save percentage, my prediction of .907 was just barely off the mark.
Where we all slipped up was how many games Murray would start. We unanimously predicted he would play the most games out of Ottawa’s three goaltenders, but that wasn’t the case. Not only did Murray spend a decent chunk of the season dealing with injuries and illness, but the stellar play of Anton Forsberg earned the latter the title of the team’s number-one goalie with a .917 save percentage, a 22-17-4 record. He was also a nuisance on the penalty kill, ranking fifth among goalies playing at least ten games in 4-on-5 PK save percentage.
All of this contributed to Murray only playing 20 games this year. Even though he’s projected to be the backup next season, I expect his health to be a bigger indicator of his workload. I’d expect him to start in at least 30 games next year if he’s healthy.
Make sure to be on the lookout for the end of this four-part series!