A big risk for the Maple Leafs in trading for Matt Murray during the off-season involved the goaltender’s injury history.
The Leafs took their chances, hoping that not only would Murray remain healthy, but also that he would turn his National Hockey League career around.
We’re not going to know for a while on the latter. The former? Well, the Leafs already have come to realize the thin line that Murray walks in trying to remain physically healthy.
In line to start against his former team, the Ottawa Senators, on Saturday night at Scotiabank Arena, Murray departed the morning skate mere minutes after it started, stopping to talk to staff at the bench before leaving the ice.
Late Saturday afternoon, Murray was placed on longterm injured reserve. The Leafs recalled Erik Kallgren from the Toronto Marlies on an emergency basis.
The Leafs said that Murray is expected to miss a minimum of four weeks with an adductor injury.
So it’s on the shoulders of Ilya Samsonov to carry the ball for the time being.
The first test for Samsonov, who is trying to get his career on the right track after he signed with the Leafs when the Washington Capitals did not qualify him this past summer, came in the latest chapter in the Battle of Ontario.
Samsonov, thanks in part to a late winner by Justin Holl at 18:05 of the third, passed.
The Leafs beat the Senators 3-2, getting 25 saves from Samsonov and for one day, at least, settling the nerves of Leafs Nation. Now for Samsonov to keep that going for the next month or so.
Holl jammed a Michael Bunting rebound past Sens goalie Anton Forsberg for the go-ahead goal.
Claude Giroux tied the game at 14:49 of the third, jamming the puck past Samsonov just over a minute after William Nylander had given the Leafs a 2-1 lead on a power play. At 13:24, Nylander beat Forsberg high on the glove side from the slot after taking a feed from Auston Matthews.
A stop early in the third on Josh Norris, who had some time, was key for Samsonov, ditto a save on Tyler Motte moments later.
The Leafs hadn’t been playing much inspiring hockey before David Kampf scored his first of the season with 17 seconds remaining in the second to tie the game 1-1.
Not long after the Sens’ Brady Tkachuk and Nylander traded shots off the post, Kampf re-directed a Jake Muzzin shot/pass into the net past Forsberg to get a frustrated crowd of 18,709 off its collective feet.
Patience with the local heroes had been worn a bit thin when the No. 1 power-play unit heard boos as it departed the ice during a minor to the Sens’ Tim Stutzle midway through the second period. For a group that boasts the offensive talents the Leafs do, there was not a heck of a lot of interest in buzzing around Forsberg.
Shane Pinto scored a power-play goal for Ottawa in the first period.
That Murray would come up lame for the Leafs so early in the season sounded familiar to the team’s forever loyal fans. Last October, Petr Mrazek’s run of groin injuries began and he never got in a groove with the Leafs after signing a three-year contract, though Toronto was able to trade him to the Chicago Blackhawks in the off-season.
And Jack Campbell and Frederik Andersen couldn’t get through full seasons without experiencing physical woes of some sort.
Kallgren was run over in the Marlies’ season-opener on Friday night in Rochester and left the game, but apparently was healthy enough to back up Samsonov on Saturday.
Murray’s latest issue happened during the skate, with coach Sheldon Keefe saying in the morning that Murray was “100% fine” going into it.
Assessment and tests during the day revealed Murray’s injury.
“Anytime you talk to a goalie, even if they’re not starting, the real pros go through (the day) as though they are, because you never know,” Keefe said of Samsonov. “You have to stay ready.”
With Ottawa last season, Murray had several injuries and never was able to get on track. Rather than re-sign Campbell, Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas took a chance on Murray, acquiring him from the Sens. Samsonov was then signed in free agency in the latest attempt to get it right in goal.
After the Sens practised in Toronto on Friday, coach D.J. Smith discussed Murray’s tenure in Ottawa.
“Matt, unfortunately in his time here, was injured all the time,” Smith said.
“Take nothing away from him. He was just hurt all the time.”
The Leafs now will hope that Murray’s injury is a one-time-only occurrence. Given the goalie’s past in sick bay, the club might not want to hold its breath.