Skip to Main Content

Matt Murray vs. Sergei Bobrovsky

Similarities, differences between Blue Jackets, Penguins goalies could decide winner of first-round series

by Kevin Woodley / Correspondent

Goaltending plays an integral part in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so much like many NHL goalie coaches do before a playoff series, charted every goal scored against each goalie this season with the help of Double Blue Sport Analytics. Graphics showing where goals went in and shots were taken are nice but the real value is tracking and analyzing the types of plays that led to them, and whether they reveal strengths, weaknesses and tendencies that can be targeted.


Matt Murray may still be a rookie but the 22-year-old Pittsburgh Penguins goalie already has won the Stanley Cup and showed few signs of a championship hangover with a .923 save percentage this season that matched his postseason mark last year. Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was even better this season, finishing as a favorite to win his second Vezina Trophy with an NHL-best .931 save percentage after losing 19 pounds in the offseason. Their styles contain similarities and differences that could decide the winner of their first-round series.


Sergei Bobrovksy, Columbus Blue Jackets

Bobrovsky's NHL career playoff statistics are a lot less impressive than his regular-season numbers, including a .890 save percentage in three seasons. But two of those playoffs were with the Philadelphia Flyers, before Bobrovsky revamped his stance to free up his hands and his technical and tactical approach under Blue Jackets goaltending coach Ian Clark.



High glove: The numbers on the glove jump off the page, with 51 goals middle-to-high on that side and 53 percent of the goals beating Bobrovsky from the pad up on that side of the net, compared to 20 percent on the blocker side (the other 27 percent are along the ice). It's important to keep in mind these are not save percentages, so it doesn't indicate whether Bobrovsky was facing significantly more shots or better quality chances to the glove side, each that could be a function of the defense in front of him. But with a discrepancy that wide, it will be interesting see if the Penguins target his glove, especially since 15 of the mid-to-high glove shots came on "clean" shots where Bobrovsky was able to get set and see the shot.

Video: CBJ@PHI: Bobrovsky stops Couturier on the doorstep

Get it up: Though the difference between sides may be puzzling, the need to elevate shots isn't. Bobrovsky is one of the League's most explosive goalies along on the ice and rarely out of any play, which helps explain how he only gave up 27 rebound goals behind a team that collapses in front of him and leaves a lot of loose change around his crease. Only three of those rebounds came off clean shots. Screens played a role in 28 of the goals this season, including 15 of those mid-to-high glove shots, many that involved Bobrovsky trying to find the puck by looking down and around traffic in a lower, wider stance that leaves some exposure high.

Quick plays: Almost half of the goals against Bobrovsky this season -- 58 of 127 -- involved a play across the slot line, an imaginary line splitting the offensive zone below the top of the faceoff circles. These plays are considered high-quality chances because they force the goalie to turn and adjust his angle from one side to the other, and 31 of the slot-line plays that ended behind Bobrovsky involved a one-timer on the other side. Add in eight one-time goals on same-side lateral passes and six on low-high passes from below the goal line, and it's clear beating on of the NHL's quickest goalies means not giving him any extra time to get set.


Matt Murray, Pittsburgh Penguins

With 21 NHL appearances before Murray's playoff debut last season, there wasn't much video for opponents to dissect. But even after the spotlight of a Cup run that inevitably leads to intense analysis of every goal, perceived mistake and scoring trend, there hasn't been a lot to nitpick about Murray's well balanced approach.



Lateral off rush: Scoring chances that force side-to-side movement are more dangerous for all goalies but Murray plays with a little more backwards flow than some of his peers, taking early ice against the rush and timing his retreat. He can also get wide of his posts on plays down the wing, overplaying the short side and leaving extra distance to cover on passes that get through to the other side. Of the 53 goals Murray allowed on rush chances, 34 involved a lateral play, and 22 crossed the slot line. Of the 46 goals involving a one-timer in all situations, 21 were after a play across the slot line and 14 had a lateral element on the same side of the ice.

Video: PIT@NJD: Murray stops multiple shots, freezes puck

What glove side issues?: Most goalies have a side they move better to, and for Murray it was evident in the playoffs that was his blocker, with a lack of rotation causing him to get a little flat and stretched out more often going to his glove. Looking at this season, there's not much sign of a discrepancy, with 38 goals above the pad on his glove side and 36 on the blocker, though the 15 along the ice to his left compared to 10 on his right do include a tendency to end up fully extended and falling forward on the ice more often to his glove, especially early in the season.

Glove rebounds, under blocker: There was also a focus on dropping his glove early during the playoffs but again the numbers don't show any dramatic increase in glove-side goals this season. If there was a trend, it involved several of the 30 rebound goals coming off plays where he got a piece of, but wasn't able to control a high glove-side shot. On the other side, Murray's blocker position, with his right elbow sticking out a bit to keep the stick blade on the ice even in blocking situations, led to more goals under the arm and between the blocker and pad.

View More

The NHL has updated its Privacy Policy effective January 16, 2020. We encourage you to review it carefully.

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.