Ottawa Senators: Statistical analysis of Matt Murray

Introduction

If you don’t know much about Matt Murray here’s a bit of background info about him; he’s 26 years old, a 2-time Stanley Cup champion goalie and was drafted in 2012, 83rd overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins. He’s a big goalie standing at 6’4 and 178 lb and is the only goalie in NHL history with two Stanley Cup wins as a rookie. This season, the Penguins goalie Tristian Jarry outplayed him and the Penguins decided to trade him to the Senators.

Junior and early professional years

Murray had a steady trend upwards during his time with the Greyhounds in the OHL, going from an 8-11 record in his 1st season with the team to 32-11 in his last season. His save percentage (sv%) heavily increased as well from .887% to .921%. On September 4, 2013, Murray signed a 3-year entry-level contract with the Penguins. Murray had an excellent 1st full season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins putting up a 25-10 record and a .941 sv%. Due to this performance, he won multiple awards including the Baz Bastien Memorial Award, as the league’s best goaltender and Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial Award, as the league’s best rookie. He also set the longest shutout streak by not allowing any goal for 304 minutes and 11 seconds, the previous record was 268:17 by Barry Bust.

Breaking down each of Murray’s seasons in the NHL

Here’s the link to the statistics that will be mentioned throughout the article (for example GSAA)

2015-16

This was the year where he had 13 games in the regular season and in the playoffs and wins the Cup, where he became the sixth starting rookie goalie in the Cup finals since 1976. He had a .923 sv%, 15 wins, 3.61 GSAA (Goals Saved Above Average, which is defined as “calculating the goals the goalie prevented given his save percentage vs the league average save percentage, on the same number of shots”). Hockey-reference tracks a stat called quality stats percent (QS%) and anything over 50% is good. In the playoffs, Murray had 14(!) quality starts (Quality start is when you have a higher SV% then average SV%) meaning he had a .667(!) QS%. To put in context, this year’s Stanley Cup-winning goalie Andre Vasilevskiy had a .600 QS%, so you can see how well Murray performed.

This is relative to the NHL average sv% for each category and as you can see one place Murray struggled in was the tip/deflection, where his sv% relative to league average was down by 0.50.

Here are some 2016 playoff highlights of Murray:

2016-17

Although he played in the playoffs the year before, he didn’t meet the rookie requirements in the regular season, so he was considered a rookie this season. He played 49 games and had a record of 32-10 and a .923 sv%. Since he had a GSAA of 2.78, he made the all-rookie team and finished 4th in Calder voting. Pretty impressive for someone’s first season. His even-strength sv% was .932, PP sv% .880 and PK sv% at .897 (PP sv% is when the opposition is on the PP and same for PK sv%, it’s when the opposition is on the PK). A PP sv% of .880 could help a young Senators not allow as many goals as they had a PK% of 76.1 which was 28th in the league. Craig Anderson had a .843 PP sv% last season so Murray could help improve the Senator’s PK. An HDsc (High Danger scoring chance) sv% of .827. The top goalie in the 2016-17 season was the Blue Jackets Bobrovsky and he had an HDsc sv% of .865, so a .827 isn’t amazing but it’s still pretty good.

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In each season the following will be referring to GSAx (Goals Saved Above Expected). This is a metric that can really help define whether a goalie is good or not and this is because it is calculated by subtracting GA (Goals Against) from xGA (Expected Goals Against). According to the LWOS website, “This stat evaluates how many goals a goalie saved above what he was expected to based on the shot quality he faced… Unlike goals saved above average, goals saved above expected (GSAx) accounts for the quality of shots a goaltender faces and levels the playing field for goalies on good defensive teams and bad defensive teams. This is why it appears to be one of the best metrics for goaltenders.” Murray had a GSAx of 16.99 (all of the GSAx stats are from the EvolvingHockey website), which was the best in his career and the only time he finished on the positive side. Finishing with a GSAx of 16.99 shows how good Murray played and was the 6th best goalie in this stat.

He goes off in the playoffs again this time posting a save percentage better than the year before, .937, as the Penguins win back-to-back Cups. He also had a higher GSAA of 5.11, QS% of .700. Murray played 11 games this playoffs, as he was injured at the start of the playoffs and came in after the Senators scored 4 against Fleury. Then he goes off and carries the Penguins to another cup, which is pretty impressive for a 22-year-old.

2017-18

Even-Strength (.911), HDsc (.816) and PP (.869) sv% and GSAx (-7.6) decreased from the year before but managed to have an incredible .974 sv% on PK sv%. Murray was incredible when facing PK with a .974 sv%, but how many times do you get shot on when your team is on the PP? Well to be exact Murray faced 39 shots. Craig Anderson this year had 29 shots when facing PK in 34 games, so 0.85 shots/game. That’s quite a lot, so if Murray can have a .974 sv% when facing PK, it could be very beneficial for a young Senators team, who could try new things such as having Stutzle on the PP, and even if a player makes a mistake, Murray could help boost their confidence by making a huge save. There is a clear weakness for Murray and it is his glove side. Fans have noticed this and so has teams (which will be mentioned more later).

In the playoffs against the Flyers, he got scored on 4 out of 13 goals glove side (as shown in the graph above) and against the Capitals, Murray got scored on 7 goals (out of 10) in that area as well. During these playoffs, Murray had a QS% of .500, GSAA of -1.37 and an sv% of .908, which resulted in a 2nd round exit to the Capitals.

2018-19

HDsc sv% of .855 and as mentioned earlier, Bobrovsky’s HDsc sv% was .865, so Murray did pretty well.

The top goalie in 2018-19 was Bishop and he had an HDsc sv% of .874, which is incredible but a .855 from Murray isn’t anything to scoff at. Although Murray’s PP and PK sv% dropped (.856 and .854), his EV sv% increased to a .930. Bishop had an incredible season and had an EV sv% of .938, so comparing that to Murray’s, shows how good Murray’s was. Due to his sv% of .919, Murray had a GSAA of 14.67, which is really good. The GSAA of 14.67 put him in 9th out of all the goalies (all played at least 30 games). Murray did have a GSAx of -0.08, which wasn’t so bad.

In the playoffs, the Penguins got swept in the 1st round by the Islanders as Murray had the worst sv% (.906) and GSAA (-1.38) in his career but had the best QS% with .750. In 4 games, the Penguins only scored 6 goals so there wasn’t too much Murray could have done. The Penguin’s defence struggled during this series as there were frequent bad D-zone coverages and turnovers. This was the first season where Murray didn’t have a better sv% in the playoffs than the regular season (excluding his unofficial first season with the Penguins in 2015).

In this season, Murray didn’t allow many high-glove goals but instead low-glove goals (well 1 more goal). He did have a glaring weakness and it was low blocker where he allowed 38 goals. Geoff Safari said that this was mainly due to the fact that the Penguins allowed a lot of cross-ice passes, which resulted in a low-blocker goal.

2019-20

This past season Murray had a down season, in fact, the worst season of his career. His EV (.901) and HDsc (.815) sv% dropped a lot but his PP (.874) and SH (.919) sv% increased.

Murray’s PP sv% was decreasing each season for the past couple of seasons, so it is good to see Murray bounce back in this category, although he did face fewer shots. His QS% of .421 and GSAA of -11.60 were the worst of his career. Murray was the 7th worst goalie when talking about GSAA (min 20 games) and a few notable names that were lower than him were, Capital’s Braden Holtby (2nd worst), the Panther’s Sergei Bobrovsky (5th worst) and the Predators Pekka Rinne (6th worst), who all had seasons which were disappointing. These goalies are “elite” though, meaning that it wasn’t just Murray who is elite that had a bad season. As goalies tend to bounce back, the probability of Murray bouncing back is high. The problem is, goalies are unpredictable, as mentioned in this article, so Murray could have another bad season next year as well. A goalie that had a better GSAA was Craig Anderson (12th worst) and he didn’t have a good season, which shows that Murray didn’t have a strong season. The GSAx also shows how Murray didn’t perform as well as he had -13.98, which was the worst in his career. Although Bobrovsky heavily underperformed and was worse than Murray when talking about GSAA, he had a better GSAx (-13.46), which wasn’t much better than Murray’s but shows how Murray heavily underperformed this season.

Murray has had a rough season but wasn’t terrible after January 1st (as shown in the tweet below).

The tweet below shows that although Murray had a rough season (GSAA of -11.60 and QS% of .421), he wasn’t terrible all year long and actually bounced back after losing the number one spot to Jarry. Other than the two terrible months Murray had (in November and December), he wasn’t all that bad.

Conclusion

In an interview with The Ottawa Sun, this is what Senators goalie coach Pierre Groulx had to say about Murray, “He’s been in constant contact with Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot to see where this team can go. He wants to take a leadership role and that’s very impressive for a 26-year-old” and “He wants to take the team to the next level. He knows he had an off-year last year but he’s very motivated to prove what he can do and get back to the style of play that he can.” He has a weakness on his glove side and hopefully, he can fix that problem with goalie coach Pierre Groulx as this is a weakness teams such as the Capitals exploited during the 2018 playoffs.

Goalies are unpredictable, you never know what you are going to get. However, the good thing about Murray is that up until now, he’s performed better in the playoffs than in the regular season (except for one season). With the defensive core the Senators have and potential fire-power upfront, the chances of them getting into the playoffs in the future are pretty high, even with a goalie that is mediocre at best. When they do get to the playoffs, the Senators coach could rely on Murray as the number one goalie to perform. As he’s shown that he can do well in the playoffs which means that at that point, it’s basically just up to the players to get the job done. He has experience in the playoffs and could really help the team take the next step.

He’s had his ups and down years but I like this deal for the Senators as this is a low-risk, high-reward deal. For a team that could go on a few, possibly many deep runs in the playoffs in the upcoming seasons, a calm and collected goalie will be really beneficial for the team.