Yesterday on Twitter, there was a lot of chatter that the Penguins are not happy with their goaltending this season, largely stemming from TSN’s Frank Seravalli reporting that the Pens are sniffing around Detroit’s Jimmy Howard that has spilled over into today.
That unhappiness is not unjustified.
This rumor comes on the heels of Casey DeSmith giving up 3 goals on 27 shots in a win in Winnipeg (0.889 SV%) and Tristan Jarry following it up with 5 goals against on 25 shots (0.800 SV%) in a loss to the Avs in Denver. It also comes as Seravalli himself suggests that Matt Murray could be on the move himself in a trade out of Pittsburgh, a player that has seen his own fair share of struggles the last two seasons between injuries and the loss of his father following back-to-back Cup wins.
After capturing two Stanley Cups in his first two years, something no other goaltender in the history of the NHL has done, it would be shocking that Murray appears on this list. But it’s fair to wonder now whether Murray’s inconsistency and injuries have worn the Penguins’ patience thin. Murray is still incredibly young for a goalie, but he’s yet to play 50 games in any regular season and he won’t hit that mark this year. His ailments during his four-year career: two concussions, a broken hand, a head injury, an upper-body injury and now he’s sidelined with a lower-body injury. When he’s been healthy, Murray has just a .901 save percentage over his last two seasons. The tangle, of course, is that when it matters most Murray has been lights-out. That’s tough to reconcile, but the Penguins have been pleased with what they’ve gotten from Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith in the short-term.
Jimmy Rixner from our pals over at Pensburgh summed that blurb up pretty neatly:
Seems like a huge leap to suggest or “wonder” if the Pens are out of patience with Murray. And what would they trade him for? And to where? Not much adds up there.
Just seems like on Seravalli’s part he sees a veteran goalie one year out from UFA playing well (Howard has a 7-6-3 record, .922 save percentage and 2.68 GAA for a better than expected Detroit team) and ties him to two teams with aspirations but poor goaltending in Pittsburgh or St. Louis.
Look, Jim Rutherford has never been known to make trades based on 2 game or 11 game sample sizes (as no GM should), but has been known to find ways to voice his displeasure to try to motivated his team through various outlets.
Sometimes, that manifests by calling out his team before shipping out a fan- and locker room favorite. Other times, that posturing comes in the form of “leaking” some interest to tell certain players “if you’re not going to get the job done, I’ll find someone that will.”
This feels like the latter. Posturing.
Because for as much as the Penguins goaltenders need to make more saves than they are, there’s a level of responsibility that falls on the 18 guys playing in front of them on a nightly basis and that’s precisely what we aim to examine here.
First, let’s establish a baseline here between the three goaltenders based on your standard statistics that you get by just going to NHL.com, which factors in time on ice at all strengths.
|Goalie||Games Played (Started)||Minutes||Wins||Loss||OT Loss||GAA||SV%||Shutouts|
|Matt Murray (18-19)||11 (11)||574||4||5||1||4.08||.877||1|
|Matt Murray (Career)||122 (116)||6822||72||33||9||2.71||9.13||7|
|Casey DeSmith (18-19)||15 (11)||749||6||3||3||2.41||.924||2|
|Casey DeSmith (Career)||29 (22)||1449||12||7||4||2.40||.923||3|
|Tristan Jarry (18-19)||2 (2)||121||0||1||1||3.50||.887||0|
|Tristan Jarry (Career)||29 (26)||1543||14||8||3||2.84||.906||2|
When evaluating goaltenders, particularly Matt Murray this season, you’ll sometimes see those evaluations include Goals Against Average and, in the case of Matt Murray, his unsightly 4.08 GAA. There are a lot of great ways these days to check in on goaltender performance, but GAA is simply not one of them.
A helpful resource as to why that is comes from a 2015 article in In Goal Mag from Greg Balloch (emphasis below is my own):
Goals against average is important, there is no discrediting that. The basis of the game relies on keeping the puck out of the net, and scoring on the other one.
What’s wrong is how it is applied to individual goaltenders.
Goals against average is altered by a variety of factors, and it cannot realistically tell us anything about an individual goaltender. It is simply a team stat. Nothing more, nothing less.
Goaltenders have no control over how many shots they face. They have little control over how many penalties their teams take. They have little control over where the shots they face are coming from, or how plays develop.
Consider that last paragraph (and emphasis) for a moment and how it applies to the Penguins goaltenders.
Matt Murray, Casey DeSmith, and Tristan Jarry indeed have no control over the volume, quality, or location of shots they face. They have no control over the amount of time spent shorthanded or the penalty kill’s abilty or inability to prevent shots/chances faced while shorthanded.
Generally speaking, they cannot control the play in front of them. This is something upon which we can all agree.
Those factors fall on the team. And, by and large, this Penguins team this season has played differently in front of each of their netminders.
But to what degree?
First, let’s take a look at some of the team-based data buckets at 5v5 this season.
|Goaltender||TOI||Shot Attempts Against Per Hour||Unblocked Shot Attempts Against Per Hour||Shots Against Per Hour||Scoring Chances Against Per Hour||High Danger Scoring Chances Against Per Hour||Expected Goals Against Per Hour|
What stands out immediately is that, in Matt Murray’s 11 games this season, the team simply has not done anything to support and insulate him the way that they have done for the other two (take Jarry’s numbers with a pinch of salt as he’s only played in two games).
Per 60 minutes of ice time, the Penguins give up a full 2.5 more shot attempts, nearly 3 more unblocked shot attempts, nearly 1 more shot on goal, over 3.5 more scoring chances, and 3.39 more high danger scoring chances against with Murray in goal compared to that of Casey DeSmith.
What’s more, teams playing against the Penguins are expected to score over half a goal more with Matt Murray in the crease than Casey DeSmith (expected goals factors in shot type, location, angle, rebounds, rush shots, and game state, not the goaltender facing the shot) per 60 minutes of 5v5 play.
It’s a pretty damning indictment of the team’s play.
It shows up, too, when you dive into the location of shots.
First, let’s establish what the difference is between high danger, medium danger, and low danger shots against represent.
Simplified, the light blue Low Slot and Slot area is categorized as “High Danger,” while the the areas directly to the right and left (R-Slot, L-Slot) as well as the areas directly to the right and left of the High Slot (R-2, L-2) and the center point are your traditional “Medium Danger” locations. Everywhere else, intuitively, will be your “Low Danger” locations.
So what are the rates in which the Penguins goaltenders face shots from these locations at 5v5?
|Goaltender||Shots Against Per Hour||High Danger Shots Against Per Hour||Medium Danger Shots Against Per Hour||Low Danger Shots Against Per Hour||Rush Attempts Against Per Hour||Rebound Attempts Against Per Hour||Average Shot Distance|
Again, you can see how little the Penguins are preventing teams from registering high quality shots against Matt Murray this season.
Murray faces a full 3.63 more high danger shots against this season at 5v5 than Casey DeSmith, while seeing the fewest medium and low danger shots against. That 10.52 is a full 1.87 more than he’s faced since he entered the league. In fact, his 8.65 HD shots against per 60 minutes of ice time is the 7th most of any goalie that has played 1000 minutes at 5v5 since 2015-16 (77 goaltenders), when Murray broke into the league. His HDSV% over that same stretch is 0.852, 7th best.
Also noteworthy is that Murr has faced more shots from the rush, albeit a much smaller and near negligible difference. Unsurprisingly, because he faces the most high danger shots against on the team, the average distance of shots he faces is also the shortest. It’s not listed here, but worth mentioning as well, that the average distance of goal scored against Matt Murray is 23.58 feet, compared to the 24.71 of Casey DeSmith an 39.00 of Tristan Jarry, which you would expect to see given the values above and below.
It’s worth identifying, too, that DeSmith has played 163 more minutes than Matt Murray at 5v5 and has faced 9 fewer high danger shots against. Again, a pretty damning indictment of how the team plays in front of each of them.
Now, finally, we want to take a look at the percentage in which they are stopping the shots they are facing.
Note: Goals Saved Above Average is the measurement of goals saved versus the league average. So if you were to put an arbitrary league average goalie X in goal to face the same shots, how many goals would he save compared to actual performance of his tangible counterpart (in this case, Murray, DeSmith, and Jarry).
|Goaltender||Save Percentage||Expected Save Percentage||High Danger Save Percentage||High Danger Goals Saved Above Average (HD GSAA Per Hour)||Medium Danger Save Percentage||Medium Danger Goals Saved Above Average (MD GSAA Per Hour)||Low Danger Save Percentage||Low Danger Goals Saved Above Average (LD GSAA Per Hour)||Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA Per Hour)|
|Matt Murray||0.895||0.912||0.750||-3.69 (-0.49)||0.914||0.62 (0.08)||0.990||1.85 (0.24)||-4.06 (-0.53)|
|Casey DeSmith||0.926||0.926||0.845||3.47 (0.34)||0.910||0.63 (0.06)||0.967||-0.73 (-0.07)||4.84 (0.47)|
|Tristan Jarry||0.898||0.952||0.833||0.22 (0.12)||0.833||-1.25 (-0.69)||0.935||-1.12 (-0.62)||-0.78 (-0.43)|
So you can see that Matt Murray’s total 5v5 save percentage and Goals Saved Above Average is the worst on the team. There’s no getting around that. What’s more, his SV% is far below his expected save percentage of .912 (like expected goals, expected SV% factors in shot quality among other qualities).
Much of that can be attributed to his extremely poor 0.750 high danger save percentage (20 HD goals against on 80 HD GA), which is down substantially from his previously mentioned career HDSV% of 0.852. Compare his 20 HDGA on 80 HDSA to the 11 HD goals on 71 shots DeSmith has given up and compare their high HD Goals Saved Above Averages versus that of their total Goals Saved Above Average and you get a much clearer picture as to what’s going on here.
In fact, Murray has out-performed DeSmith (and Jarry) when facing medium and low danger shots against. Murr has actually only given up just 1 low danger goal this season on 100 shots and just 5 medium danger goals on 58 shots. DeSmith, on the other hand, has given up 8 MD goals on 89 shots and 5 LD goals on 150 shots.
Consider this, too. Of all goalies this season that have played a minimum of 250 minutes (60 in total), only Cam Ward (12.09) has seen more high danger shots against than Matt Murray (10.52) per 60 minutes of ice time. Casey DeSmith’s 6.89 is 53rd most. That’s not insignificant.
Clearly, this season at 5v5, the difference between Matt Murray and his peers has been his ability to stop the puck coming in from the high danger area. That context cannot and should not be ignored.
What this all tells us is that if the Penguins are able to shore up their play in front of Murray when he returns from his lower body injury and limit the amount of high danger shots and chances they give up while he’s in the crease, there’s a very good chance of him regaining the form we were accustomed to seeing his first two seasons in this league.
And with the way the Penguins have been playing defensively as of late, there’s no reason to suspect that they won’t continue that when Matt Murray returns.