Broken records: Matt Murray and the ’03-04 Sound Tigers

Quick diversion before we start: Looks like the fresh start suited David Leggio nicely in his first Portland start.

Matt Murray’s a bum. He gave up infinitely more goals in the last two minutes today than he had in the previous 300. And I mean, I’m no math major, but when your track record says stopping 130 in a row is the norm and then you give up one you should’ve stopped, well, I see which way it’s trending.

Yeah. Murray now holds the AHL record with a 304:11 scoreless streak, knocking Barry Brust out of the book after just a couple of years, a dominating run that included four consecutive shutouts (one last Sunday in Bridgeport). His last goal against had been on Feb. 8, when he allowed a five-on-three goal to Kael Mouillierat with just under six minutes left in the Penguins’ 3-1 win over the Sound Tigers (the first in the 10-game losing streak). Today’s goal came with 1:11 left, so those two late goals are all that came between Murray and six consecutive shutouts*, which is just, I mean, what year and what sport is this?

*-Edit, 3/23: SEVEN consecutive, actually, as Jason Chaimovitch pointed out: He had one the start before that Feb. 8 game.

What got me scribbling pen to paper on a day off was even more Bridgeport-centric, because had Dana Tyrell’s breakaway not happened, today would’ve been Murray’s 10th shutout, erasing the rookie record of nine that Wade Dubielewicz has a piece of. That record was one of 10 major or semi-major records that Bridgeport’s 2003-04 team had a part of, and it would’ve been the first to fall.

Edit, 3/23: It did fall, finally, on March 22, at Lehigh Valley, with Murray’s 10th shutout.

I got to wondering how secure the rest were. For most of them, even though the Penguins have been an impressively stingy defensive team and scoring’s not what it has been, those 2003-04 marks are just a different world.

GA in an 80-game season, 140. The Pens are at 126 124 in 59. Matt Murray has shown he can do a lot of things in 2015, so who knows? (Well.)

Game-winning goals, Jeff Hamilton, 15. This is always such a weird one amid all the defense, but the more I think about it junk-scientifically, it almost feels inevitable. They’re giving up next to nothing. But they’re not scoring a lot, either, 178 goals. Hamilton has 43 of them, almost a quarter, a phenomenal offensive year for one man in an outlandish defensive year for a sport — one that inspired massive rules changes and interpretations changes over the next two seasons. So if Bridgeport’s playing low-scoring games, and Hamilton’s the one scoring goals for them, when they win, obviously he’s gonna be the one scoring the game-winner, no? (Junk-sciencey, I said.) There you go. (To do it only slightly less junk-scientifically, when Hamilton was in the lineup, Bridgeport scored 152 goals and won 36 games; he scored 28.3 percent of the goals, so if he scored winners at the same pace, he’d be expected to get 10 game-winners.)

Chuck Kobasew has come closest since then, with 12 game-winners the next season. Four have made it to 10 since. (Perhaps logically, they’re also AHL-household names, Brett Sterling, Mathieu Darche, Keith Aucoin and Mark Mancari.) Milwaukee’s Austin Watson leads the league with eight going into Sunday.

Team GAA, 1.72. Even with Murray’s 2015 heroics, the Penguins have allowed 120 non-shootout goals in 59 games, a team GAA of 2.00 with overtime factored in. Bridgeport allowed 140 in 80, or 133 in 76 at the same pace.

Home GA, 58. I mean, come on. The Penguins have allowed the fewest this year, 56 non-shootout goals in 29 home games.

Road GA, 82. There are teams in hailing distance, actually. Hershey has 59 non-shootout goals against in 26 road games. That’d be 86.2 in 38. (Bridgeport’s, obviously, was in a 40-game road schedule.) The Penguins have allowed 64 in 30 road games after today, which’d be 81.1 in 38. Rockford is on that same pace. Grand Rapids has 61 against in 29 road games, an 80-goal pace over 38. (Others are close, and I stopped dividing after a while.) Then you start asterisking and whatnot, but that’s an argument for another day, Mr. Frick.

Shutouts at home, 12. Harder to ferret out of the various reports, and I bug Jason Chaimovitch enough for important stuff that I don’t want to bug him to find stuff for a random retrospecty blog post. But no team has more overall than WBS’ 12 this year; eight of them are at home. (Actually, as Jonathan Bombulie pointed out, no team has more than Murray.)

Penalty-kill percentage (since 1984-85), 90.66 percent. It’s a number that may not look ridiculously high, but it’s really hard to keep up. Since then, the only team to finish at 90.0 was Norfolk the next season. Manitoba finished at 89.7 in 2006-07. And since then, no one has even finished at 89.

For a frame of reference, Hamilton leads the league this year at 88.2 percent. To get to 90.67, it’d have to kill off the next 56 power plays.

Individual GAA, Wade Dubielewicz, 1.38; individual save percentage (since 1984-85), Dubielewicz, .946. These were the two that got me doing algebra. Like the PK number, I wanted to see how long Murray needed to keep his scoreless streak going to reach Dubielewicz’s numbers. It was long, but it wasn’t overly long. But then Tyrell went and scored, at once ruining all that algebra but leaving us with only arithmetic for the correction.

Dubielewicz’s important numbers from 2003-04: 1959:05 played, 45 goals against, 788 saves. Murray after today: 1716:20 played, 45 goals against (aha!), 704 saves. Thanks, Dana. Simply, to get his 1.57 GAA and .940 SP down to Dubielewicz’s numbers, without giving up a goal, Murray would just have to play 242:45, and he’d have to allow no goals on 84 shots.

Four straight shutouts? Nothing he’s never done before.

Say they limit Murray’s back-to-backs, give him 10 more starts in the final 17, about 610 minutes or so with overtimes thrown in. If he finished at 2326 minutes even, he’d have to give up eight goals or fewer in those 10 games. If he started 15, skipping only one night in the three-in-threes, played about 915 more minutes, got to 2631 even, he could give up 15, one goal a night.

Which, when you start talking about numbers like that, shows just how ridiculous that 2003-04 season was.

Michael Fornabaio