NHL Goalie Report: Maple Leafs, Islanders, Blues, Kings, More

Given the neverending supply of netminder-centric narratives flooding every arena so far in 2022-23, it felt fitting to revise this column’s initially static approach. Rather than needlessly delaying an NHL Goalie Report, and waiting weeks for additional storylines to compile, you can now expect the latest and most important headlines to be presented in a much more fluid fashion the rest of the way.

What won’t change, though, is the equity offered within this coverage. You can still expect these reports to get you caught up across every division. With a focus that stretches league-wide, rest assured that your water cooler talk will always elevate beyond merely knowing the latest transactions from your favourite franchise.

RELATED: NHL Goalie Report: Red Wings, Capitals, Stars, Blues, Kings, More

Now that you’re up-to-date on the administrative side of things, let’s get to the actual stories that matter most throughout each division at the moment.

NHL Goalie Stat Leaders

Looking at the group of over 40 goalies who have accumulated at least 10 starts as of and including Dec. 6, these are the NHL’s current leaders when it comes to wins (W), goals-against average (GAA), save percentage (SV%), shutouts (SO), and goals saved above expected (GSAx).

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W: Linus Ullmark (14)
GAA: Linus Ullmark (1.93)
SV%: Linus Ullmark (.936)
SO: Three-way tie* (3)
GSAx: Ilya Sorokin (16.5)

*Karel Vejmelka, Ville Husso, Connor Hellebuyck

Murray Shutting Out Skeptics in Toronto

Safe to say, given his recent results, Matt Murray returned from his early-season injury motivated to establish a more successful presence than he had set after a disappointing opening night loss. Now 6-1-2 on the season, with a .932 SV%, 2.34 GAA, and 4.1 GSAx, the 28-year-old has also recently earned his first shutout with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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

Far from being the type of contest that allowed the winning goalie to relax throughout it, Murray needed to be sharp all night long en route to Toronto’s 4-0 victory over the Dallas Stars on Dec. 6.

“He was perfect,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Came up with huge saves in big moments. Obviously, the number of penalties we took today could have been a big problem.”

Stopping all 44 shots faced earned Murray a 5.98 GSAx in this one game alone. For context, Hellebuyck currently leads the league in GSAx/60 with a 0.819. Meaning, Murray’s performance against the Stars proved to be six times more dominant than what one of the league’s best has been able to accomplish on a regular basis.

Further adding to Murray’s case when it comes to dispelling the narrative that his best days are behind him. In fact, if he maintains anything close to this level of impact, the two-time Stanley Cup winner could very well set career highs across several columns on his stat card.

Sorokin’s Struggles Affecting Islanders

After starting the season as one of the most reliable netminders in the NHL, as evidenced by his 0.798 GSAx/60, Ilya Sorokin‘s play has cooled down to a degree that could soon become concerning.

Ilya Sorokin New York Islanders
Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin/The Hockey Writers)

10-5-0 with a .933 SV%, two shutouts, and a positive GSAx through his first 16 games of 2022-23, Sorokin was key in helping lift the Islanders back toward relevance following their disappointing 2021-22. So much so that his team currently owns a playoff spot, which is not something they were able to claim last year.

Perhaps it was unrealistic to expect such results to sustain, as Sorokin’s current three-game skid has certainly worked to balance his stats. New York has only won one of their last four, with Sorokin in net for each of those defeats but not their sole victory.

Yet, that he’s still at a .927 SV%, 2.33 GAA, and 14.4 GSAx offers an optimistic foreshadowing that his play will inevitably bounce back the other way sooner than later.

Binnington’s Antics Angering the Blues

It’s one thing for a team to struggle at the start of a season, but what Jordan Binnington has put his St. Louis Blues through thus far in 2022-23 has only made things worse. It’s not just that his .889 SV%, 3.42 GAA, and -8.0 GSAx are doing little in the way of helping their collective efforts, it’s that his antics are causing tension in all the wrong ways.

Jordan Binnington St. Louis Blues
Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues (Amy Irvin/The Hockey Writers)

Known as one of the more temperamental athletes in today’s game, Binnington’s now habitual aggression makes it seem all too obvious that he’s determined to uphold that reputation.

Easily considered healthy competition when an athlete stares down an opponent or even yells back toward their bench, but when they become the reason that their team faces yet another penalty kill then it’s safe to say the distraction is far from rational.

If Binnington is hoping to regain any sense of relevance in his role, he’ll need a shift in focus. He can be confident — cocky, even — as that seemed to work in helping separate him from the pack during his impressive debut campaign. But he has to stop letting dramatics motivate his every move, when stopping the puck should be what guides him.

Copley Crowned New King in Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Kings wasted little time in patching up their roster after placing Calvin Petersen on waivers. As impressive as Jonathan Quick has proven to be throughout his career, he can’t do it alone — not anymore, anyway. Especially as a 37-year-old, who is closer to retirement than his peak.

Jonathan Quick Los Angeles Kings
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings (Amy Irvin/The Hockey Writers)

Enter, Pheonix Copley. Signed this past offseason to a one-year deal, with 31 games of NHL experience behind him, a seemingly solidified tandem of Quick and Petersen meant Copley would begin the season in the American Hockey League (AHL). Good thing for the 30-year-old, perseverance pays off.

Sitting at a record of 6-4-1 with the Ontario Reign thus far through 2022-23, Copley had also earned a 2.48 GAA and .913 SV% at the AHL level. Enough to earn him a call-up to the big league. What’s more, is what he then accomplished in his return to an NHL rink.

Copley not only helped his Kings beat the Ottawa Senators in his season debut on Dec. 6, but he also stopped 31 of 33 for a .939 SV% and 0.95 GSAx. Metrics far more in line with what the Kings will need from the second member of their tandem if they hope to maintain their playoff position all year long.

More NHL Netminder News & Notes

Barley beyond the quarter mark of the campaign, the volume of netminder narratives continues to grow. From starters who are sidelined to rookies stealing the spotlight, the 2022-23 season has been anything but boring in that regard.

While we’ve certainly witnessed many better-known superstars stepping up as expected, others are failing to earn their keep at the moment. Meanwhile, a plethora of impressive performances from names that aren’t yet as recognizable could force a revised goaltending strategy within their respective franchise.

RELATED: Marc-Andre Fleury’s Case as a Hall of Famer

Can underperforming veterans end off the calendar year in a successful enough manner to retain their roles or are we already witnessing a new era of goaltenders taking over the NHL? It won’t take very much longer to find out.