Maple Leafs Mysterious Goalie Magic Paying off with Matt Murray

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ Matt Murray put on a show in a 4-0 win over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night. It’s been a long time since a goalie has been the difference in a Maple Leafs’ victory, but Murray had to be sharp to make 44 saves and shut out a very skilled team. Perhaps the biggest moment came as the second period ended in a chaotic scramble, Toronto was down two men, and one of the penalty killers broke his stick. Still, Murray kept the Stars out of the net. That led to a second intermission trying to figure out who this netminder was and how he’s turned his play around.

Matt Murray Toronto Maple Leafs
Matt Murray, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

I have no problem eating crow. I was not a fan of bringing Murray to Toronto. But I meant the Murray, who struggled with the Ottawa Senators and was politely punted from the Pittsburgh Penguins. I was not referring to the player in blue and white who was in between the pipes in Dallas. That player has not been seen or heard from since the 2018-19 season.

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No, the player I assumed Toronto was getting was placed on waivers last season and suited up for the Sens farm team, the Belleville Senators. That player was the goalie who only played 47 games over two seasons in Ottawa due to injuries. That guy seemingly showed up in Toronto; he lost in his debut and then got injured during warmups two days later.

Murray’s Turnaround is Record Book Worthy

But since returning from injury, Murray has looked like an elite goalie. But Tuesday’s performance was the topper. A 44-save shut-out goes into the franchise record books. Only two other goalies in Toronto record books made more saves in a shutout win: James Reimer made 49 stops during a win in 2012, and Mike Palmateer made 47 saves during a shutout performance in 1977. He is also moving up the Maple Leafs’ record books for the longest point streak by a goalie. For netminders, that means earning a point per game played. Murray is currently at 8, just behind Felix Potvin. Jack Campbell and Jean-Sebastien Aubin are tied for the longest streak at 11.

Maple Leafs Secret to Goalies

What is going on here? I’ve asked myself that several times during those past eight Murray starts. How could a player who looked so terrible for the past two seasons be playing so well now?  But there is another quandary. How can Jack Campbell be playing so badly after leaving Toronto? Campbell was an all-star last season with Toronto and was rewarded with a hefty five-year, $25 million contract. He is sporting a whooping 4.12 goals against average, and a horrible .872 save percentage – both career lows. But he was a good goalie in Toronto. Matt Murray has a 2.34 goals against average and a .932 save percentage – both career highs.

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What is the deal in Toronto? The Maple Leafs’ training facility is said to be second to none in the NHL, and the training staff are equally as elite. But certainly, a nice gym is behind this dilemma. Perhaps the coaches? That doesn’t equate either, as Toronto hired Curtis Sanford during the past off-season. Kyle Dubas charm? Boy wonder has a thing for any player who suited up for his hometown Soo Greyhounds, and Murray was a fantastic netminder in junior. So good that Dubas gambled his professional career on bringing Murray to Toronto. Possibly it was that boost of confidence that sparked Murray to regain his Stanley Cup-winning form.

Marc-Andre Fleury Matt Murray
Pittsburgh Penguins goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray hold the Stanley Cup. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

Although we are three months into the season, there is still a lot of hockey to be played. That said, all the naysayers, myself included, have been proven wrong. Will that be the case come playoff time? We will see in five months.