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Maple Leafs’ Question: How Much Should Matt Murray Be Playing?

The Toronto Maple Leafs are facing a big question. How much should Matt Murray be playing with home-ice advantage at stake?

It’s understandable that the Toronto Maple Leafs want to get Matt Murray some starts to get him in shape and sharp for the upcoming games and the postseason. He does after all have a good Stanley Cup resume, although that’s been a few seasons ago now. 

At the same time, Ilya Samsonov has emerged as the number-one goalie for the Maple Leafs. So, that brings up the question of how important home-ice advantage is for the team. Given the importance of that question, the Maple Leafs must also consider the potential consequences of starting Murray and holding Samsonov out of games. 

The truth is that Murray is simply not performing as well as Samsonov.

Related: Maple Leafs Exorcizing Muzzin’s Ghost with an 11/7 Lineup Move

Does the Answer to Who Starts in Goal Depend upon the Context?

Ultimately, there’s a balancing act between winning in the regular season and making future decisions about preparing for the postseason. Deciding whether to start Murray in the net will depend on a variety of factors, such as the team’s overall performance, the opponent the Maple Leafs are facing, and how things are shaking out just prior to game time.

Head coach Sheldon Keefe has a tough problem. He needs to weigh a number of factors carefully to make the best decision possible to give the team the best chance of winning a particular game, securing the home-ice advantage, and preparing for the possibility of a long postseason run.

Related: Remembering Maple Leafs Tough Guy Jim Dorey

Goalies Have Their Ups and Downs, But …

Playing in goal is one of the most difficult jobs because of the pressure of the job. It’s also true that every goalie seems to have ups and downs and might perform differently in different situations. What that means is that, although Samsonov is out-performing Murray right now, it’s not necessarily accurate to objectively label Murray as a “worse” goalie than Samsonov. 

Even this season, Murray had some huge performances. He’s helped the Maple Leafs win some difficult games against tough opposition. Can he return to the form he displayed at the beginning of the season? And, is it worth the risk to see if that can happen? 

In other words, how willing should the Maple Leafs be to see if Murray can get his mojo back? He can help the team win, we know that. Even if he hasn’t been performing as well recently, he’d done it this season. Now what?

It’s a Bit of a Tight Rope for Coach Keefe

In the end, coach Keefe will need to make the best decision possible based on all available information. Ultimately, he has to trust in his goalies’ abilities to perform at their best when it matters most.

Here’s the consideration he’s facing. The Tampa Bay Lightning are dominant on home ice this season. Their record is 24-6-0. Having the home-ice advantage would definitely tip the scales toward them in the playoffs. Their road record of 17-16-1 is average at best.

Andrei Vasilevskiy Tampa Bay Lightning
Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning is one of the top NHL Goalies

At the same time, the fact is that the Maple Leafs have a similar kind of split between home and the road. Their home record is 24-7-5 and their record on the road is 16-11-4.

It’s clear that gaining home ice matters. How much pressure is Toronto under to get it? And how will (and how should) they play their goalies as they seek it?

One big question the Maple Leafs face in these coming weeks is: How much should Matt Murray play?




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  2. gfinale

    March 17, 2023 at 1:13 am

    I know what should be done because there is only one factor. Murray should play 0 games until the end of the regular season. He is made of glass and has been injured 2/3 of the past 3 years! Bring Woll up to get ready for the playoffs because of the likelihood Murray gets injured in the playoffs after a few games. Put Murray through waivers but he never plays an AHL game like Simmons. He’s not going to forget how to play goal in a month! No team is going to want his problems or cap hit and salary, let alone both. In the ridiculous chance a team does pick him up, it frees 4.7 for the rest of the regular season and rid of the problem for next year! Freeing his 4.7 means Kallgren and others can be on the roster too with more in the lineup to reduce playing time and injury. There are tons of reasons why this is obviously the only and best choice.

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