2017 Eastern Conference Final Preview (Addendum): Matt Murray
The Pittsburgh Penguins announced this morning that Matt Murray will make his first playoff start this season in tonight’s game 4 against the Ottawa Senators. He has been out of the lineup with a concussion since the end of the regular season, leaving Marc-Andre Fleury to backstop the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Eastern Conference Final.
Murray’s regular season numbers were good enough to put him in the Vezina conversation, if not outstanding enough to garner him an actual finalist spot. With the Penguins struggling to break through the Senators’ suffocating defense, they’ll need stellar goaltending from whoever is in net. Murray won’t be able to rely on the kind of goal support he got throughout the regular season.
Murray’s susceptibility to giving up goals through the body is as much of a “trend” as there can be for a guy with less than two full seasons in the NHL. Nearly a third (31%) of the goals he allowed in the 2016-17 season were above the pads and under the arms. These kinds of goals are more common on his glove side.
This “through-the-body” trend may also be evident in the higher number of close-in goals that he allowed compared to the average playoff starter: 38% coming from the low slot compared to the average of 31%. This seems to be a function of a high number of rebounds rather than deflections. In other words, goals close in are coming off of an initial save he couldn’t control more often than off of a player in front of him.
All goalies are vulnerable to lateral plays, but Murray does have a habit of setting up outside his posts on plays coming up the wing. This leaves him slightly more vulnerable than many to movement across the ice prior to the shot, especially when combined with a quick release or one-timer. He’ll need to resist the urge to overplay the shot on rushes to allow for more efficient movement across the crease should a pass materialize.
Of course, Murray has been here before, and that experience is important. Last year, Murray spelled a concussed Fleury all the way to the Stanley Cup. He shouldn’t be rattled by the situation, but keep in mind that recovering from a concussion is never simple and straightforward. And until two days ago, he hadn’t played in six weeks. That outing was more than solid, and the Penguins will have to hope that Murray can hit the ground running again.