The trouble with Douglas Murray
Francois Lacasse / Getty

A quick glance at the final score from Game 3 between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens may lead some to believe that Michel Therrien’s lineup juggling paid off. The Canadiens avoided squandering a lead and held on for a 4-2 win to go ahead 2-1 in the series. As for Therrien’s roster decisions, Travis Moen took Brandon Prust’s spot on the fourth line, while Douglas Murray got his first taste of 2014 playoff action in place of Francis Bouillon.

Moen played under 11 minutes, invisible for most of the evening yet present in the game’s dying minutes. Murray played a tick over 12 minutes, and earned positive reviews from his coach.

"He made his presence felt," Therrien said. "I liked how he was physically involved, he kept things simple. He's a guy that has a lot of respect from his teammates. We could feel that Douglas was in the lineup tonight."

Murray’s cherry picked stat line looked like this: five hits, four blocked shots, +1.

That’s it. Wrap it up. Douglas Murray for Game 4 and beyond.

The trouble with Douglas Murray is that his “presence” is inflated by some old guard type thinking that he’s a rough and tumble body-slamming, shutdown defenseman who will sacrifice his body no matter the cost. How anyone arrives at this conclusion is mind-boggling. By spreadsheet scanning or eyeball test, it’s apparent that Murray is a liability on the ice.

Sure, some will point to his hit on Patrice Bergeron as some sort of momentum swinging event, but it was a hit. Plain and simple. Murray has many opportunities to throw his body around - when he can keep up with opponents, anyway - but his mere presence often renders his team near-shorthanded in 5v5 situations. His role as a physical player means he chases hits, and he simply doesn’t have the footspeed to get back in position after running out of it.

Then there’s the blocked shots. We can easily over-romanticize blocked shots because we’re often reminded of rare occurrences where guys like Gregory Campbell break a leg getting in front of a puck. But Murray’s blocks on Tuesday night were hardly the kind of body sacrificing stuff that gets mythologized.

Here’s a recap of Murray’s four blocked shots:  

  • A shot by Johnny Boychuk hit an unaware Murray while he was pushing himself around with a skate on one foot and a rollerblade on the other in front of his net.
  • A weak wrister by Dan Paille deflected off Murray's stick, luckily for Montreal the puck went wide left rather than towards the net. Hardly an intentional blocking effort.
  • Murray’s best block of the night, he absorbed a wobbling Chara wrister.
  • For his final act, Murray took a Carl Soderberg wrister to the back of his leg. It might have hit the net had he not displayed courage, grit, and a willingness to sacrifice his hot bod.

The reality of Murray’s presence is that he’s a very effective one-way door for shot attempts. His Corsi for % in Game 3 was 26.7%. It doesn’t take an analytics hound to tell you that he was awful. All it takes is a simple viewing of his play.

Murray appears to have played his way into the lineup for Game 4 because the Canadiens came out on top, not because he intimidated the Bruins with physicality or played a shutdown role.

The trouble with Douglas Murray
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