If your eyes didn't tell you that Matt Murray was out of his damn mind in Dallas on Tuesday night, these stats should do it.
Murray, who put up a ridiculous 44-save goose egg in Toronto's 4-0 win over the Stars for his first shutout as a Leaf, not only posted one of the highest-volume shutouts in Maple Leafs franchise history, he also had maybe the best performance in a shutout since modern goaltending stats have been around — according to one key metric at least.
Based on goals saved above expected — which takes into account the quality of shots a goalie sees while leveling the playing field for goalies on good vs. bad defensive teams — Murray posted the best-single game mark since modern stats started (2008), according to MoneyPuck.com.
As far as Leafs franchise history goes, just two goalies have posted shutouts with more saves than Murray did on Tuesday in Dallas, with only James Reimer (49 saves on Feb. 4, 2012) and Mike Palmateer (47 saves on Mar. 12, 1977) posting busier blank sheets than Murray.
It wasn't just that Murray got it done so effectively in the Leafs goal on Tuesday, but how (and against who) he did it against that makes this performance extra special. The Stars, now 14-7-5, are tied with the Jets for tops in the Central Division and are one of the best teams in the Western Conference. They're one of the most offensively potent squads in the league, too, as Dallas still leads the NHL in goals scored (98) as of this writing, even after getting shut out by the Leafs.
It's not like that Stars attack held back or were slowed down in any way, either. Dallas attempted a whopping 93 shots attempts in this one, which was the most attempts by a team shut out in a regular season game since the league started tracking the stat in 2009, according to ESPN stats and info.
Dallas was totally dominant at 5v5, dusting the Leafs in expected goals, shot attempts, shots on goals, scoring chances — any offensive stat you can name, really. And per Money Puck's "Deserve To Win O'Meter" which measures win probability based on a variety of factors, the Maple Leafs only had an 17.2 percent chance of leaving Dallas with a victory on Tuesday.
Murray came up especially big during a 17-save second period and was massive each of the seven times Toronto found itself shorthanded. This sequence, with the Leafs down 5-on-3 (basically 5-on-2 after Mitch Marner loses his twig) late in the middle frame was total chaos, and also produced Murray's best save of the night and maybe the best of his season so far. (Shout out to the Leafs' shot-blocking here, too.)
This stop in particular shows everything that's going right with Murray's game right now: the elite anticipation, the perfect read, a strong push across, economy of movement, the rebound control while moving laterally — those little nuances that tell you when a goaltender is on his game are all there for Murray right now.
After the game, Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe summed up Murray's performance, well, perfectly.
"Perfect. Perfect on the scoresheet, perfect in the game. Came up with huge saves in big moments. Number of penalties we took could have been a real problem, but [Murray] was really solid. That 5-on-3, he was incredible."
Murray got off to a tough start in Toronto, to say the least, with the oft-injured netminder suffering an ailment in a morning skate after an underwhelming season-opening start vs. the Canadiens that sidelined him for over a month. After having nearly five weeks to stew over his only performance of the season while dealing with his latest injury setback, all Murray did upon his return was play like one of the top goalies in the world.
The 28-year-old has gone 6-0-2 since returning the the Toronto crease. He sits tied with Connor Hellebuyck for second in the NHL with a .923 all-situations save percentage, and he just passed the star Jets netminder for the highest goals saved above expected per game mark among qualified netminders this season. He's also easily the NHL leader in goals saved above expected per 60 so far, according to Money Puck, and the only qualified NHL goaltender with a GSAE/60 higher than 1 (1.123).
No matter how you slice it up, Murray has been one of the top 'tenders in the world since coming back from injury, and he's doing it all behind a depleted Leafs defence corps missing three of their top four regular blueliners in Morgan Rielly, T.J. Brodie and Jake Muzzin. Truly remarkable stuff from a netminder many had written off before the season even started after an underwhelming tenure with the Ottawa Senators.
Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas took a lot of heat and the Leafs seemed to be facing a lot of uncertainty after letting Jack Campbell go this summer and electing to take a massive gamble on former Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov and Murray — who posted just an .899 save percentage over two injury-riddled seasons with the bottom-feeder Senators.
Toronto and Dubas banked everything (including most likely his job) on Murray having a bounce-back year and returning to his two-time Cup champion form he had with the Pittsburgh Penguins a few seasons ago.
So far, at least, it looks like Murray has found himself again. And Dubas may find himself with an extension because of it.
Goaltending, man. It's all that matters.
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