Frozen Tools Forensics: Clutch Goaltending

by Grant Campbell on October 4, 2019

If you’re curious about which goaltenders raised their game in the third period and OT frame, a great report is available in Frozen Tools Report Generator. I went back a few seasons and looked at goalies who were better or worse than their usual selves from the third period on.

Here is the data from the 2018-2019 season (min 20 GP) for goalies who were significantly better. Sergei Bobrovsky had a save percentage of 91.3 over the whole season but was a stone wall late in games with a save percentage of 93.4, for a difference of 2.1 percent.

Conversely, a few prominent goalies who struggled more than usual late in games were Semyon Varlamov, Henrik Lundqvist and Devan Dubnyk who were all below 90.0 percent after the second period.

One thing I noticed when comparing those who were strong late in games and those who weren’t is the workload for each of these goalies. Of those who played over 60 games, only one improved significantly in the third period or later, while three noticeably struggled. The average number of games for the clutch goalies is 39.38, compared to the fading goalies with 47.77 being the average. I didn’t intend to make age an issue but the clutch bracket has an average age of 29.85 compared to 32.07 for the other. I’m a big proponent of having the number of starts for a team’s number one goalie decreased from what has commonly been the case in prior years of 60 games or more. This is just another example of why.

Next are the top goalies in save percentage late in games as a whole, with Jack Campbell leading the bunch with a save percentage of 94.7 over his 31 games played.  Thomas Greiss, Ben Bishop, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Darcy Kuemper and Jordan Binnington are all represented, and these goalies are just consistent from the start of the game to the final whistle.

In overtime, Thomas Greiss didn’t allow a goal on 17 shots and Darcy Kuemper had a whopping 51 shots against and only let in five, while Jimmy Howard only allowed one goal on 27 shots. Carey Price struggled in OT, letting in half of the 12 shots he faced, while Semyon Varlamov let in the most OT goals with eight on 26 shots against.

From the 2017-2018 season, here is the data for our clutch goalies (20 GP min):

The top difference-makers were Tristin Jarry and Thomas Greiss (who we saw in 2018-2019 at fourth overall for late-game save percentage), who both were 2.9 percent or higher after the 2nd period than their overall season percentages. Of those who played over 60 games, two improved greatly while three goalies struggled.

Devan Dubnyk struggled again late in games with a save percentage of 89.7 compared to his season average of 91.8; he and Jaroslav Halak are the only two goalies on this list for two years in a row.

Here are the top goalies late in games from 2017-2018 overall:

Consistent starters on the list above were Marc-Andre Fleury, Antti Raanta, Roberto Luongo and Sergei Bobrovsky. The stars of OT in 2017-2018 were Frederik Andersen with 44 saves on 47 shots, Sergei Bobrovsky with 42 saves on 44 shots and Pekka Rinne who gave up only one goal on 36 shots.

As a fantasy GM, I prefer my goalies to be consistent throughout the whole game, as being better after the second period might only indicate that the goalie wasn’t at peak performance earlier in the game. Having said that, I’d rather have a clutch goalie than a fading one.

For more information on goalies and nightly starters, go to

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