Eastern Edge: Statistical Review of Goaltenders

by Brennan Des on June 11, 2019
  • Eastern Edge
  • Eastern Edge: Statistical Review of Goaltenders

 

In this week’s installment of Eastern Edge, we kick off a quick review of goalie performance during the 2018-2019 season. Before we begin, let’s define a couple of stats we’ll be taking a look at today:

Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) from Hockey Reference: the goals a goalie prevented given his save percentage and shots faced vs. the league average save percentage on the same number of shots. (Min. 4 shots faced per team game needed to qualify.)

Quality Start % from Dobber Hockey: Proportion of games with a save percentage above league average or games with fewer than 20 shots and a save percentage above .885.

 

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Season

Record

GAA

SV%

Shots Against

GSAA

Quality Start %

2016-2017

23-17-7

2.61

.917

1480

5.08

52.0

2017-2018

44-17-3

2.62

.920

2075

15.12

55.4

2018-2019

39-10-4

2.40

.925

1713

26.40

66.0

 

The 24-year-old netminder battled fatigue during the 2017-2018 season, as he appeared in a career-high 65 games. His workload was limited to 53 games this past season, but that decrease is partially explained by the month he missed with a broken foot. The reality is Andrei Vasilevskiy is a top-tier goalie. When determining how good a goalie is, we often consider how good the team in front of him is. While the Tampa Bay Lightning boast the most talented roster in the NHL, the team would not have had as dominant a regular season without the fantastic play of Vasilevskiy. In other words, Vasilevskiy’s stats are not a product of his team’s excellent play, rather his excellent play fuels his team’s success.

According to his GSAA, had he been replaced by an ‘average’ goalie this season, the Lightning would have conceded 26 more goals. In the grand scheme of things, over the course of the season, that doesn’t seem like a huge number. However, that would take Tampa’s goals against total from 221 to 247, turning the league’s seventh-best defense into an average defense (16th). To provide more context, the Vancouver Canucks, Anaheim Ducks and Toronto Maple Leafs allowed 248, 248 and 249 goals this season. Those aren’t teams we typically praise for keeping the puck out of the net. With all this being said, Vasilevskiy – along with his team – struggled during the postseason as they got swept by the Blue Jackets. Perhaps the coaching staff takes a different approach to the 2019-2020 regular season in order to improve his future playoff performance?

 

 

Tuukka Rask

Season

Record

GAA

SV%

Shots Against

GSAA

Quality Start %

2016-2017

37-20-4

2.26

.914

1584

2.33

46.9

2017-2018

34-14-5

2.36

.917

1513

7.79

55.6

2018-2019

27-13-5

2.48

.912

1245

3.21

56.5

 

First off, I think it’s important to mention that coach Bruce Cassidy distributed the workload evenly between his goalies during the 2018-2019 regular season. So, while I’m tempted to include a separate section for Jaroslav Halak in this article, I feel like I’ll have another opportunity to discuss his play during this offseason. For what it’s worth, Halak was outstanding in the role of 1B this year – posting a 22-11-4 record alongside a 2.34 GAA and .922 SV%. In fact, Halak’s play gave Tuukka Rask a lot more time to rest during the regular season, which might explain Rask’s brilliance during Boston’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.

I’ve alluded to the fact that Rask’s workload in 2018-2019 was a lot smaller than we’re used to seeing. In fact, the 46 games he played mark the fewest he’s seen over the past six seasons (54, 64, 64, 70, 58). While his regular season stats weren’t exactly impressive, his playoff numbers are insanely good: through 23 games, Rask is sporting a 15-8 record alongside a 1.93 GAA and .938 SV%. The average goalie would have allowed 15 more goals than Rask during the Bruins’ postseason run. Sure, a stat like GSAA is far from perfect, but it’s hard to imagine Boston being a game away from winning the Stanley Cup had they allowed 15 more goals. Rask has been a top option in Fantasy Hockey for years now, but my one concern is a lack of starts going forward. A smaller workload during the regular season led to playoff excellence this year, so the Bruins might turn to same strategy next year.

 

 

Carey Price

Season

Record

GAA

SV%

Shots Against

GSAA

Quality Start %

2016-2017

37-20-5

2.23

.923

1794

17.25

64.5

2017-2018

16-26-7

3.11

.900

1487

-17.49

42.9

2018-2019

35-24-6

2.49

.918

1952

14.94

60.6

 

Considering how much Carey Price struggled during the 2017-2018 season, 2018-2019 was a huge rebound year for him. While he was struggling, Price didn’t exude that same confidence that we’re used to seeing from him. When he’s on his game, Price looks extremely calm and his movement is minimal because his positioning is so good. While I wouldn’t say he was in the same form that won him the Hart in 2015, it certainly appeared as though that form was within reach during this past season.

While his overall numbers aren’t amazing, it’s important to acknowledge how well he played when Shea Weber returned to the lineup. From December 1st, 2018 to the end of the regular season, Price posted a 28-17-2 record alongside a .925 SV% and 2.25 GAA. To give you some context, Vasilevskiy was 30-7-3 in that span, posting a .925 SV% and 2.43 GAA. Bobrovsky was 27-17-1, posting a .913 SV% and 2.53 GAA. With all due respect to Montreal’s defensive corps, Jeff Petry and Shea Weber are the only two players I’d consider good enough to play in the top-four (with Victor Mete soon to join). So when Shea Weber isn’t in the lineup, the team is much more prone to defensive errors and Price is much less equipped to deal with what the opposition throws at him. If Weber and Petry can stay healthy going forward and Victor Mete’s game continues to develop, I fully expect Price to improve on his numbers from this year.

On a final note, I think it’s important for the Canadiens to have a solid back-up goalie next season, to potentially reduce Price’s regular season workload. He appeared in 66 games this past year and even had some back-to-back starts with zero days of rest. Considering his injury history and the many years he has left on his contract; the team would be wise to lessen his workload and maintain his long-term health.

 

 

Carter Hutton

Season

Record

GAA

SV%

Shots Against

GSAA

Quality Start %

2016-2017

13-8-2

2.39

.913

663

-0.62

36.7

2017-2018

17-7-3

2.09

.931

810

15.09

59.4

2018-2019

18-25-5

3.00

.908

1541

-3.11

54.0

 

Last season marked Carter Hutton’s first opportunity as a starter, at the tender age of 33. He appeared in a career-high 50 games and as you might expect also saw faced a career-high number of shots. Prior to this season in Buffalo, Hutton had spent his career as a back-up goalie in St. Louis and Nashville – teams that were much better than the 2018-2019 Buffalo Sabres. Hutton’s inexperience with carrying the workload might explain the stark contrast in his performance between the first and second half of the season. In his first 28 games, he was 13-12-3 with a save percentage above .915 and a GAA below 2.75. In his final 22 games, he sported a 5-13-2 record with a save percentage below .900 and a GAA above 3.20. Now, whether that drop-in performance was a result of fatigue or team-wide struggles can be debated, but it’s a pretty significant difference nonetheless.

In the past, we’ve seen successful back-up goalies falter when given the lion’s share of starts in a new environment (see: Scott Darling and Cam Talbot). I’m not ready to write off Hutton just yet because I don’t think we have a large enough sample size to conclude that he’s a ‘bad’ goalie. I’m still a firm believer that the Sabres will take a big step forward next year because they have such a talented roster. I know that’s something we’ve all been saying for a while now, and it really looked like they were on track to make the playoffs last year after that 10-game win streak, but I really think next year will be different. The team has some excellent young talent in Jack Eichel, Rasmus Dahlin and Casey Mittelstadt, as well as a few ‘older’ talented guys like Jeff Skinner, Sam Reinhart and Brandon Montour.

While I’m not expecting much from Hutton as a starter based on his past performance, I think there’s still potential for him to surprise us next season.

 

 

Craig Anderson

Season

Record

GAA

SV%

Shots Against

GSAA

Quality Start %

2016-2017

24-11-3

2.28

.927

1185

15.92

63.2

2017-2018

23-25-6

3.32

.898

1768

-24.83

43.1

2018-2019

17-27-4

3.51

.903

1676

-11.94

42.0

 

First off, I think it’s important to recognize the amazing career that Craig Anderson has had, as well as the mental toughness he exhibited during his wife Nicholle’s battle with cancer. With that being said, at this stage of his career and with the quality of the team in front of him, Anderson simply isn’t an option in fantasy hockey leagues. I’d say this has a lot more to do with the fact that the plays for the Ottawa Senators than his own ‘declining abilities’ at the age of 38. During this past season, management shipped out Erik Karlsson, Matt Duchene, Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel to acquire a plethora of young talent. Okay, maybe plethora is a bit generous, but the team has acquired a few key young pieces and it’s clear that they’re rebuilding. Because of that, I’m not really sure what Anderson’s place is with the team or if he can provide any fantasy hockey value going forward.

If you are a glass half-full kind of person, I’ll leave you with the reminder that the Senators gave up a league-high 35.7 shots per game last season. So, if your league only counts saves and absolutely nothing else, Anderson could be a fantastic option!