Real or Imagined – a look at Western Conference Goalies (2016)

by Doran Libin on November 28, 2016
  • The Wild West
  • Real or Imagined – a look at Western Conference Goalies (2016)

 

Having just passed the quarter mark of the season for most of the teams in the NHL it is time for the third annual installment of the Real or Imagined feature in the Wild West column. As always it starts with a team-by-team look at the goalies of the Western Conference and gives buy/sell hold recommendations for each of them. To do so, the numbers of the individual goalies were considered as well as the defenses in front of the goalies. In order to assess the defenses the shot and scoring chance rates of each team were included as part of the evaluation for this column.

 

Last year a greater importance was put on the ability of a team to limit high-danger shots as those are the ones that are most likely to result in goals. This year rebounds and rush shots are also considered a part of those high-danger shots. This year it is possible to specifically look at how many rebounds and shots off the rush a goalie is facing because of the work done at Corsica.hockey. Rush shots and rebound shots make the shot more dangerous regardless of the distance the shot comes from, however as there is no difference between the rush shots recorded it must be looked at in conjunction with distance and general scoring chance rates. It does go to show the greater number of ways available to the public for the purpose of judging goalies and maybe make sense of the voodoo that is the art of tending net.

 

Anaheim

 

Player

GS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

John Gibson

15

6-7-3

2.62

0.906

Buy

Jonathan Bernier

7

4-1-1

2.02

0.933

Sell

Dustin Tokarski

0

0-0-0

0.00

1.000

Waive

 

Jonathan Bernier has thus far outplayed John Gibson but he has had a much easier go of it. The Ducks expected goals against per 60 (XGA60) at even strength is 1.88 with Bernier on the ice versus John Gibson who has an XGA60 of 2.39. He hasn't played better than Bernier but Gibson also faced three times as many high-danger shots than Bernier. That difference is mirrored by the difference in the number of rush-shots against that each has faced. At the same time Gibson's high-danger save percentage (HDSV%) has been below average and below his norm this year, whereas Bernier’s HDSV% has been well above his career norm. He is currently at the high of what can be expected from a goalie on high-danger shots. There is very little room for Bernier to improve on his current numbers and a long way to fall, especially since a large part of his superior overall save percentage is his better numbers on the penalty kill. Penalty kill save percentages are notoriously volatile. It all suggests that Gibson will be the better goalie by season’s end. Furthermore, the fact that Gibson has started twice as many games as Bernier despite his struggles bodes well for Gibson’s job security and the Ducks giving him time for regression to help him out.

 

Arizona

 

Player

GS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Louis Domingue

12

4-8-1

3.21

0.904

Hold

Mike Smith

6

3-1-1

2.96

0.911

Sell

Justin Peters

1

0-1-0

3.16

0.900

Waive

 

Part of the problem with owning a Coyotes goalie is that the team, while giving up fewer than 30 shots per 60 minutes, gives up nearly 11 scoring chances per 60. Therefore it is unsurprising that neither goalie has a decent save percentage overall. With neither posting stellar numbers they do not provide much value as they do not face a ton of shots yet still give up a lot of goals. Domingue’s numbers, while worse at the moment, show more potential in the long run as he has been in every way better than Mike Smith except for on the penalty kill. As stated earlier the penalty kill is a hard place for a goalie to maintain season long dominance as Smith would need to do to maintain his stellar 95%+ save percentage on the penalty kill. Furthermore the Coyotes have actually played slightly better in front of Domingue giving up fewer high-danger shots and rush shots. If the Coyotes were good Domingue might deserve a 'buy' recommendation but he, and Smith, have such low quality start rates that a 'hold' is the best that either could possibly warrant.

 

Calgary

 

Player

GS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Chad Johnson

11

7-3-1

1.98

0.928

Sell

Brian Elliott

12

3-9-0

3.42

0.882

Gamble

 

As bad as the Flames were defensively at the beginning of the season their numbers have improved significantly as their current shots-against-per-60-minutes rate is at its lowest in four years. The Flames shots- and scoring-chance -against rates at even strength this year now mirror pretty closely those that Brian Elliott faced in St Louis, although he does face more scoring chances now. Those are overall rates because Elliott faces much stiffer competition than Chad Johnson and as such he faces 6.0 high-danger shots per game to Johnson’s 4.25, as well as twice as many rush shots against. Elliott’s numbers on high-danger shots and his overall save percentage are both at four-year lows. Elliott is a much better bet to bounce back than Johnson is to maintain his current rate of play. Johnson faced slightly more shots when in Buffalo but fewer scoring chances and was not able to post these numbers, it is unlikely that he does this over a full season.

 

Chicago

 

Player

GS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Corey Crawford

18

10-6-2

2.31

0.924

Buy/Hold

Scott Darling

5

4-0-1

2.76

0.909

Hold

 

Corey Crawford is the real deal. He has posted a save percentage over 92% in four of the last five years. He is no longer riding the coattails of the team, in fact the team is now riding his coattails. As the Blackhawks have gotten worse defensively, Crawford has become a better and better goalie. The Blackhawks now get outshot at even strength for the first time in four years and the expected goals percentage is now in their opposition's favor at even strength. There will be regression for Crawford as the Blackhawks have an insane ratio of expected-goals-against-per-60-minutes to goals-against-per-60-minutes of 1.66, the highest of any team over the last four years. There have only been six teams to maintain a rate above 1.2 and four of those teams had either Henrik Lundqvist or Carey Price. The way Crawford is playing it is entirely possible that this team could be in that group as well.

 

Colorado

 

Player

GS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Semyon Varlamov

14

5-9-0

3.08

0.904

Buy

Calvin Pickard

6

4-1-1

2.03

0.932

Hold

 

This is another case where the team plays significantly better for the backup than it does for the starter. Varlamov faces three times as many high-danger shots and five times as many rush shots as Pickard does. That is significant because the Avalanche are much better defensively this season than they were under Patrick Roy. Their shot against rate is down by two shots, the scoring chance against rate is down one and the XGA60 is down by half a goal. It seems that as the season goes on and the Avalanche continue their improved play Varlamov will see some of that as well. His biggest deficit this year is his medium-danger save percentage, which is almost guaranteed to improve. Conversely Pickard is posting numbers above his career norm in almost every respect. Varlamov has only posted a save percentage under 91% once in the previous six years, and has posted two years over 92% in the last three. Expect a rebound and for the wins to roll in as the offense improves and gets back on track.

 

Dallas

 

Player

GS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Antti Niemi

10

5-2-2

2.97

0.909

Buy/Hold

Kari Lehtonen

12

4-6-3

3.38

0.884

Sell

 

With all the injuries the Stars have faced this year it is no surprise that their offense is struggling but do not forget that they also made their defense much younger. Thus they are also giving up more shots-per-60-minutes than in past years but are doing a better job of limiting scoring chances at the same time. Lehtonen’s numbers are pretty much where they have been ever since his concussion two years ago and there is not much of a light at the end of the tunnel. Conversely Niemi has a slightly above his norm high-danger save percentage and a very low medium-danger save percentage. Given that Niemi faces much more medium-danger shots than high-danger shots any regression should see Niemi’s numbers improve. The Stars are playing better in front of Niemi than they are in front of Lehtonen so that should even out some but Niemi should be the one to benefit if the Stars offense ever returns to form. This is still a true platoon, though, so Niemi should only be looked at as a second or third goalie.

 

Edmonton

 

Player

GS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Cam Talbot

20

11-7-2

2.47

0.921

Hold

Jonas Gustavsson

2

1-1-0

2.34

0.898

Sell

 

This is as safe a goaltending job as there is in the league outside of the top tier goalies. Gustavsson posts absolutely no threat to Talbot. The Oilers are allowing fewer shots than last year but are allowing one and a half times as many high-danger shots. That shows that the Oiler defense still has a ways to go but Talbot’s play has been entirely sustainable with numbers that largely mirror last year's and where they are higher are within the bounds of his career numbers. Talbot will be better if only because the Oilers offense is better than it has been in years past. Thus Talbot only needs to maintain his current level of play to have a shot at winning 32+ games.

 

Los Angeles

 

Player

GS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Peter Budaj

18

12-6-1

2.04

0.917

Sell/Hold

Jack Campbell

1

0-0-0

0.00

1.000

Waive

Jonathan Quick

1

0-0-0

3.01

0.933

Hold

Jeff Zatkoff

3

0-3-0

3.39

0.875

Waive

 

Neither Jeff Zatkoff nor Jack Campbell have given any indication that they are NHL goalies. Jack Campbell has not posted a save percentage above 90% in the AHL in two years, and Jeff Zatkoff looked lost in his short three-game sample. If you have not sold on Quick yet there is no real reason to sell him now but his return his still months away and he is largely a known quantity. Now it falls to Peter Budaj to save the Kings' season or at least keep it afloat until Quick returns. Budaj currently has an overall save percentage that would match his career high. That should suggest that he will not be able to maintain it except for the team that he plays behind. They still allow only 26 shots-per-60-minutes as well as only 2.15 XGA60 and 7.5 scoring-chances-against-per-60-minutes. He makes a decent play in a pinch but it would make more sense to flip him for a goalie with a better long-term outlook, even just within this season.

 

Minnesota

 

Player

GS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Devan Dubnyk

17

9-6-2

1.66

0.946

Sell/Hold

Darcy Kuemper

4

2-1-1

2.94

0.908

Hold

 

Dubnyk is having a start to this season to rival the run he went on when he arrived in Minnesota halfway through 2014-15. He has a 96% save percentage at even strength, and his 94.6% save percentage overall is better than anything that Lundqvist has posted over a full year. His high-danger save percentage his seven points higher than the upper limit of what can be expected of a goalie from that range over a full campaign. The Wild are giving up a lot of shots but very few of those are especially dangerous, as can be seen by their cutting down on rebounds and rush shots against, hence their XGA60 of 2.07. Thus it would not be surprising to see both goalies post stellar numbers at the end of the season. Having said that, Dubnyk is due some regression as the Wild have an expected-goals-against to goals-against-ratio of 1.2, which is in the same rarified air as the Chicago Blackhawks. Dubnyk is still one of the best goalies in the West but his numbers will regress so use this time to try to flip him for a bonafide stud.

 

Nashville

 

Player

GS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Pekka Rinne

17

9-5-3

1.98

0.935

Sell

Juuse Saros

1

1-0-0

1.16

0.962

Gamble

Marek Mazanec

2

0-2-0

5.44

0.809

Gamble

 

Pekka Rinne appears to be back to his elite form as his save percentage is over 92% for only the second time in five years and his quality start percentage is over 60% for the second in the same period. It is surprising that Rinne has done this in a year when the Predators appear to be worse defensively in every way. They are allowing more shots, more scoring chances and have a worse expected goals against rate. As such the Predators are in the top quarter of all teams over the last four years in ratio of expected-goals against to goals against. Furthermore, Rinne’s posted a bad high-danger save percentage but has somehow posted a save percentage on medium-danger shots roughly five points higher than the expected average. This does not seem like a streak of play that Rinne can maintain. For that reason, and because Rinne will not play more than 65 games, a gamble on one of Juuse Saros (preferable) or Marek Mazanec for when injury or regression finally hits Rinne.

 

San Jose

 

Player

GS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Martin Jones

19

10-8-1

2.15

0.917

Buy/Hold

Aaron Dell

3

2-1-0

1.93

0.931

Hold

 

There are some concerning trends in San Jose such as their newfound inability to score mirrored by a four-year low shooting percentage. Defensively the Sharks are allowing eight scoring-chances-per-60 minutes for the first time in four years. Furthermore, while they have cut down on the number of rebounds they allow, they are allowing more rush-shots against. Equally as concerning is Martin Jones’ trend of his medium save percentage dropping for a third consecutive year. That is especially problematic as a third of the shots the Sharks allow are of the medium-danger variety. Jones has still managed to be a league-average goalie despite those factors. Thus, while there are some concerns with Jones, it needs to be noted that he is getting little to no help from the Sharks’ offense. Jones gets a 'buy' rating because any improvement in the Sharks offense will see him provide more value.

 

St Louis

 

Player

GS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Jake Allen

17

10-3-3

2.36

0.913

Buy/Hold

Carter Hutton

5

2-4-0

2.98

0.891

Hold

 

The Blues are a bit of a dichotomy as their defense has improved but their goalies are posting lesser numbers. And their offense looks worse despite posting similar shot and scoring-chance numbers. Jake Allen is a mirror of that dichotomy as his medium- and high-danger numbers are heading in opposite directions. His medium-danger numbers are at a very high 96% whereas his high-danger save percentage is at a very low 78%. Both have been moving in their respective direction (medium-danger increasing and high-danger decreasing) for the third consecutive year. Both are having a greater effect on Allen’s save percentage because the Blues have significantly cut down on the number of low-danger shots he is facing. In the end Allen has value because he plays behind a strong defensive team that should improve on their very low shooting percentage and raise his value.

 

Vancouver

 

Player

GS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Jacob Markstrom

11

6-3-2

2.73

0.902

Hold/Sell

Ryan Miller

11

3-8-0

2.67

0.910

Hold/Sell

 

It is hard to find much value in either goalie as they are in a true platoon while playing on a very bad team. The Canucks have an EGA60 over 2.5 for the third consecutive year but are now allowing nearly 11 scoring-chances-against-per-60-minutes. The offense has become slightly better than last year but the improvement is not close to being enough to compensate for the porous defense. Both Jacob Markstrom and Ryan Miller are posting basically league average save percentages on low-, medium- and high-danger shots meaning there is not a big reason to expect improvement.

 

Winnipeg

Player

GS

Record

GAA

SV%

Status

Connor Hellebuyck

16

8-8-0

2.57

0.915

Buy

Michael Hutchinson

8

2-4-2

3.26

0.896

Hold

 

The Jets are actually slightly better defensively this year than they were last year. Their defensive metrics have all either improved or leveled out yet their goaltending hasn't shown signs of improvement even after they finally gave Connor Hellebuyck the chance to patrol the crease by assigning Ondrej Pavelec to the AHL. Even then Hellebuyck has been basically league average in almost every sense except for his very low quality start percentage of 46.7%. Hutchinson on the other hand has been barely even replacement level. His high-danger save percentage has been especially low at 70%, which is 10 to 15 points lower than what is expected from an NHL goalie. With Hutchinson playing a third of the games his poor numbers have more of an effect on the teams overall number than many backups would. It also makes Hellebuyck much safer in his position as the team’s starter. The Jets are a young and volatile team and should get better as they play more and get healthier thus the buy recommendation for Hellebuyck.

 

 

The Statistics in the column this week come from Dobberhockey.com, Hockey-reference.com and Corsica.hockey

 

 

4 responses to “Real or Imagined – a look at Western Conference Goalies (2016)”

  1. misterdoohit says:

    I love this site and all, but man this article is absolutely brutal. So many missing words that it was hard to figure out what some of the sentences were even supposed to say. Let me know if you are looking for an editor…

    • Dobber says:

      Thank you. I was able to give this a careful look the second time through and fixed several ARI mistakes, two CGY mistakes, on COL mistake. I also clarified the LAK paragraph and fixed a few minor miscues.
      I wouldn’t call it absolutely brutal, but it wasn’t great. If you can see more beyond those that I fixed, then maybe I do need your editing talent, let me know!

  2. Paul Switzer says:

    Crawford’s GAA would look even better if it wasn’t for the team’s horrendous PK the first 6-8 games of the season.