Is it time for the Maple Leafs to worry about Matt Murray’s inconsistent play?
Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
By Nick Barden10 months ago
If you had one word to describe the Maple Leafs and Panthers game on Tuesday night, which word would you use?
Mine is definitely drunk.
The game started off fairly weird with Carter Verhaeghe scoring his first goal against the team that drafted him back in 2013.
That really should’ve been the first warning sign that this game was going to get a bit funky.
Not even a minute later, Dryden Hunt finds the back of the net for Toronto. Why does that matter? Well, Hunt actually signed an entry-level contract with the Florida Panthers in 2016. That was also his first goal against the team that brought him into the NHL.
Weird, right? Well, no, it actually became much more exciting after the pair of goals. Shoutout to the refs, too, for making it fun. Kind of.
Florida really pushed Toronto in the first half of the game. It felt like we were seeing the Panthers of last year until the Maple Leafs began to play as they have for most of this season.
You can see in the graph above that Toronto carried the expected goals in all situations throughout the game. But there was a massive shift, even more in favour of the Maple Leafs, halfway through the second period.
They dominated the game after that and were relentless on the forecheck. We cannot forget about Ilya Samsonov, though, who came into Toronto’s net after the fourth goal and didn’t allow a single puck to go by him.
Florida scored two of their four goals from pretty far out and while you can pin a lot of the blame on Matt Murray (who we’ll talk about later), you could also pin some of it on the Maple Leafs in front.
On the two goals that were scored from a ways out, it seemed as though Murray was screened just before the puck was fired off. That made it fairly difficult for him to react when he finally sees the puck. In two instances, it was in the back of the net before he could react.
Toronto, on the other hand, scored a lot of their goals inside around the crease. They even received one from Auston Matthews from in the slot right before the end of the second period, which helped push the team along in the third.
Is it time to worry about Matt Murray?
The 28-year-old allowed four goals on eight shots against from Florida on Tuesday night. Not good.
But would I say it’s time to stress about Murray? I don’t think so.
He’s played fairly good for most of the season, though I will say he has been fairly inconsistent. Murray has only gone four-straight games with a .900 save percentage or higher, and that was right when he returned from injury.
After that, the 28-year-old hasn’t been able to string together a consistent amount of strong play. He’ll have one where he’s lights out and then in the next game, Murray’s play takes a 180.
I’d say it will be time to sound the alarms if his play goes consistently downhill. Until then, I wouldn’t worry.
William Nylander ends the game in style
Prior to Tuesday night’s game, Nylander hadn’t scored a goal in his last six games. That changed in the third period after the puck went off his helmet and then into the back of the net.
After that, the 26-year-old went down and scored Toronto’s overtime winner, which was his 24th goal of the season. Nylander remains on pace for 40+ goals — a career-high and the first time he’d hit the 40-goal mark ever.
His game-winning goal came at the end of a shift timed at 1:08. To take the puck to the net after skating for that long takes a special player. And it seems like Nylander is turning into that really special player right now.
Bobby McMann continues to shine at NHL level
The 26-year-old had a number of chances to score on Tuesday night, but Sergei Bobrovsky came up with some big saves.
McMann in his second-straight game, led the Maple Leafs in both five-on-five CF% and xGF%. He played less than 10 minutes on Tuesday, but his 72.22 CF% and 89.73 xGF% were the best among both teams, according to NaturalStatTrick.
What’s most interesting is his 99.57 xGF% at five-on-five against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.
It seems as though the 26-year-old is making the most of his first stint in the NHL. It’ll be fascinating to see if he remains with the Maple Leafs down the stretch.
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