Since the NHL’s Christmas break, the Ottawa Senators have been pretty solid. Posting a 6-4-2 record, the team has shown its competitiveness, rising from a bottom-feeder to at least having a .500 win percentage. Now, what might be the reasoning for this sudden surge? A team that struggled mightily earlier in the season, especially in November when they lost 11 of 12 games. Maybe it all-star elect Drake Batherson who carried the team? Or the great pick-up of Adam Gaudette who has 7 points in his 12 games played with the squad? While both of these forwards played a part, nobody was more crucial to the Senators’ success than Matt Murray.
Matt Murray started this season 0-7 with a 3.66 GAA and a .883 SV%. These are not the kind of numbers you want from a goaltender you’re paying $6.2 million annually to. Sens fans across the world were very upset, (rightfully so), at the lackluster play of their goaltender. They called for Forsberg or Gustavsson to start each game, and many wanted him bought out. Then, on November 27th, 2021, the Ottawa Senators placed Matt Murray on waivers.
Murray played two games for the Belleville Senators, posting a 2.55 GAA and .918 SV%. He didn’t have too long of a stint in the American Hockey League, as on December 28th, 2021, he was recalled from Belleville. This would start a great run for Murray, and prove that the AHL improved his confidence. Murray started and finished 7 games in the month of January, posting a 2.51 GAA and .924 SV% with a record of 4-1-2 including one shutout. Out of those 7 games, he was elected in the 3 stars, four times. This good play transitioned through the month and didn’t stop for January. In his first game of February, Murray stopped 33 of 34 shots, earning a .970 SV%, the win, and the first star of the night.
Since returning from his AHL stint, it seems each game he plays, Sens fans tweet about how great he’s doing and what phenomenal saves he’s made. Funny how a few months ago people were very upset whenever Head Coach DJ Smith announced Murray would start between the pipes, but now they cross their fingers to hear him say it. The team also seems to play more confidently in front of him. They know they have the security on the back end, so they can worry about scoring the goals. Hopefully, this bounce back is not short-lived, and Murray can sustain this play throughout the rest of the season, and eventually carry it to next year.