Can Douglas Murray be an asset shorthanded?

Alex Trautwig

Fans and media who approve of the Murray signing have mainly noted two things as positives for him as a player; he hits a lot, and he's good on the PK. We can debate whether hitting is important (it's not that important), but we'll get nowhere. What we can do, is look at his performance while shorthanded.

It's pretty tough to figure out how well a player performs in shorthanded situations. It's a small sample size overall, and the thing that sticks most in your mind is always going to be goals.

There's also the idea of what's more important; flatout preventing opportunities against, or is creating offense while a man down just as important?

There are also some things that seem (at least to me) to be very important for the PK that aren't tracked for all teams, like winning puck battles and clearing the zone. Christopher Boucher collects these kinds of statistics at Boucher Scouting, but they're not available for other teams.

What we can do, though, is exhaustively look at both the percentage of goals, shots, Fenwick and Corsi events, that go positively for a penalty killer, and we can isolate events against that player's team while they're on the ice. Because this is such a small sample to work with overall, I'm going to leave it up to you what you decide is most important, and split everything up into one-year, two-year, and three-year samples. That way we can not only increase the sample, but see if there's a trend.

2012 - 2013 | One Year Sample

For the single year sample, all those defensemen who played 50 or more minutes on the PK were considered, which gives us a sample of 126 defensemen.

Percentage of positive events while shorthanded (4v5)
Statistic Murray's performance League rank
Goals for % 5.6 73
Shots for % 10.6 95
Fenwick for % 8.8 107
Corsi for % 7.3 114

Keeping in mind that this is a small sample, the larger the number of events becomes, the worse Murray performed versus the rest of the league. This is not a good sign, but not a death knell either. Let's look at just the against statistics.

Events against per 60 minutes of shorthanded ice time (4v5)
Statistic Murray's performance League rank
Goals against/60 9.0 114
Shots against/60 49.2 76
Fenwick against/60 71.4 96
Corsi against/60 100.5 103

Again this isn't looking too hot, but let's not rush to judgment on this either, because we need to look at bigger samples.

2011 - 2013 | Two Year Sample

For the two-year sample, I've increased the required minutes to 125, which leaves us with a similar sample of 123 defensemen.

Percentage of positive events while shorthanded (4v5)
Statistic Murray's performance League rank
Goals for % 10.0 72
Shots for % 11.1 104
Fenwick for % 9.1 115
Corsi for % 7.4 120

While the goals-for percentage is nearly twice that of the one-year sample, it seems like powerplay scoring on average may have gone up in 2013, so the change in league rank is minimal. The worse sign is that once again, the bigger the sample the worse Murray does. Let's look at the pure against statistics again though.

Events against per 60 minutes of shorthanded ice time (4v5)
Statistic Murray's performance League rank
Goals against/60 7.7 114
Shots against/60 47.9 63
Fenwick against/60 71.2 84
Corsi against/60 102.4 109

We're seeing trends now. Murray seems to have some skill in keeping shots down on the PK, about middle of the pack, but he doesn't prevent goals against and shot attempts flow freely. Three years gives us a much bigger sample though, and in this size, bad puck luck can still be a factor.

2010 - 2013 | Three Year Sample

For the three-year sample I upped the required minutes to 250, which cuts down the eligible defensemen to a group of 118. Slightly smaller but close enough.

Percentage of positive events while shorthanded (4v5)
Statistic Murray's performance League rank
Goals for % 8.9 81
Shots for % 12.8 85
Fenwick for % 11.0 99
Corsi for % 9.2 108

On the surface this looks like a really solid improvement in many areas, but remember that the number of eligible defensemen is smaller, so each rank is a couple of spots higher than it normally would be. With that said, the improvement isn't large. We'll look at the straight-up against statistics just to make sure though.

Events against per 60 minutes of shorthanded ice time (4v5)
Statistic Murray's performance League rank
Goals against/60 6.9 92
Shots against/60 50.8 72
Fenwick against/60 72.8 88
Corsi against/60 103.2 108

What else can we learn from this?

  1. Murray's goals-against per 60 minutes on the penalty kill has steadily increased for three seasons.
  2. The larger the sample size of events, the worse he looks when compared to his peers.
  3. He likely blocks a lot of shots, but it doesn't stop teams from scoring goals at a very high rate.
  4. Over the previous three seasons, Murray is among the worst third of penalty killing defensemen in the league.
That's a sufficient enough sample to make a judgement or two, the most obvious one being that his intangible physicality isn't going to make the Canadiens' PK any better.


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