Maple Leafs Commentary: How Much Worse Are the New Goalies?

The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling! That seems to be the general reaction of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ fan base these days in regard to the team acquiring Matt Murray from the Ottawa Senators and then signing free agent Ilya Samsonov to a one-year deal after he was let go by the Washington Capitals.

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That leads to the question, is the Maple Leafs’ goaltending situation worse now than it was last season? And, if it is, how much worse is it?

Comparing the Old Goalies and the New Goalies

First, lets look at the save percentages and goals-against-averages of the Maple Leafs’ goalies for the 2021-22 season.

GoalieStartsGoals AgainstGoals-Against-AverageShotsSavesSave Percentage
Jack Campbell471232.641,4301,307.914
Petr Mrazek18583.34520462.888
Erik Kallgren12433.31331342.888
Totals772242.902,3352,111.904

Now, lets look at the same numbers for Murray and Samsonov.

GoalieStartsGoals AgainstGoals-Against-AverageShotsSavesSave Percentage
Matt Murray20603.05640580.906
Ilya Samsonov391193.021,1451,026.896
Totals591793.031,7851,606.900

The two numbers to take note of here are the goals-against-averages and the save percentages.  

Comparing the Statistics of Both Sets of Goalies

The trio of Maple Leafs’ goalies had a combined goals-against-average of 2.90. Murray and Samsonov had a combined goals-against-average of 3.03. That is a difference of 0.13 goals against per game. If we extend those averages over 82 games we get a difference of 10.7 goals over the season.

The three Maple Leafs’ goalies had a combined save percentage of .904. Murray and Samsonov had a combined save percentage of .900. What does that mean? First, here’s an explanation of how a save percentage works. If a goalie has a save percentage of .900 it means that he stops 90 percent, or nine out of every 10 shots he faces. What that also means is that he allows one goal for every ten shots against. 

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The average number of shots that an NHL team takes, and allows, in a season is about 2,600. The difference between a goalie with a .900 save percentage and a .904 save percentage is about 10.4 goals per season.  

Jack Campbell Toronto Maple Leafs
Jack Campbell, formerly of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Whether or not you use goals-against-average or save percentage, the differences between the numbers that Campbell, Mrazek and Kallgren put up and the numbers that Murray and Samsonov posted represent about 10.5 goals throughout an entire NHL regular season, or 0.13 goals per game.  

What Do These Numbers Likely Mean?

If Murray and/or Samsonov play at exactly the same level they did last season, they should give the Maple Leafs close to the same level of goaltending overall that they had last season. That level of goaltending was enough to allow the Maple Leafs to post their best regular season ever, with a record of 54-21-7 and 115 points.

Related: 50 in 50 for Mike Bossy

However, it is not unreasonable to think that Murray, with a much better team in front of him, should perform better than he did last season. Samsonov, despite having a lower save percentage (.896) and higher goals-against-average (3.02), still posted a 23-12-5 record. He should be able to at least duplicate that this season.

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The biggest question is going to be Murray’s health. In each of the last three years, he’s been limited to 38, 27, and 20 games in each of those seasons partially due to injuries. What needs to be determined is if he can stay healthy.

Matt Murray Ottawa Senators
Matt Murray, formerly of the Ottawa Senators
(Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With Murray’s health in mind, the Maple Leafs will have to pay special attention to his workload. They can do that by relying more on Samsonov during the regular season and limiting Murray’s starts. The goal will be to try and make sure Murray is as close to 100 percent and ready to go for the playoffs.

The Intangibles Matter

The one thing that you cannot measure is intangibles. One tangible is both Murray and Samsonov are highly motivated to prove themselves. Murray’s coming off three so-so seasons. He’s also coming home so to speak, and he wants to show that he still has what it takes. He is also relatively young for a goalie at 28. 

Related: Maple Leaf’s Commentary: The Honeymoon’s Over for Dubas & Shanahan

Samsonov, on a one year “show me” deal, wants to earn the big payday he sees other goalies getting. He’ only 25 years old, the age that most goalies are just making it to the NHL  He has a close to 100-game head start on most 25-year-old goaltenders. 

So What? The Final Analysis

By doing a deeper dive into the numbers from this last season for both Murray and Samsonov, we can reasonably expect the goaltending to be at least as good this season as it was last season.  

Maybe, just maybe, the sky is not falling. 

[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]