Ramblings: Striving for Consistency (Mar 15)

by steve laidlaw on March 14, 2018

After Tuesday’s discussion of goalie fatigue, I got to thinking about the most important traits a goaltender can have. Undoubtedly, you want a goalie playing on a good team. We’ll never completely parse the impact of goalie talent, player talent, coaching and systems, but for fantasy owners you’ll do well in goalie stats by playing goaltenders on playoff teams.

You also want to avoid injury-prone goalies. There’s no sense in burning a high pick on a goalie if he isn’t going to be there for you in the fantasy playoffs as owners of Ben Bishop, Carey Price, Mike Smith and Cory Schneider can attest. Goalies in their 30’s with groin issues are in my no-fly zone. Mind you, I’ll draft any player if the value is right. Should an injury-prone goalie drop to where he’d be my #3 option, I’ll gladly roll the dice. Otherwise, let them be another person’s problem.

Lastly, you want a goalie who is consistent. A few years back I latched onto Rob Vollman’s quality starts stat as the best measure of goalie consistency. For the unindoctrinated, quality starts are defined as any start where a goalie provides a league average save percentage (0.917) or higher, or allows two goals or fewer with a save percentage above 0.885. Essentially, did the goalie have a night where he gave his team a chance to win? Or for the fantasy owners, did the goalie have a night where he didn’t wreck your stats? With a quality start the answer is yes so fantasy owners should be seeking out goaltenders who most consistently answer that question with an affirmative.

Here’s where goalies ranked heading into last night’s action for quality start percentage (minimum 20 starts) this season:

 

GS

QS

QS%

Carter Hutton

25

18

0.72

Philipp Grubauer

21

15

0.714

Kari Lehtonen

21

15

0.714

Marc-Andre Fleury

37

26

0.703

Pekka Rinne

51

35

0.686

Roberto Luongo

26

17

0.654

John Gibson

51

33

0.647

Tristan Jarry

22

14

0.636

Martin Jones

49

31

0.633

Mike Smith

49

31

0.633

Antti Raanta

38

24

0.632

Corey Crawford

27

17

0.63

Sergei Bobrovsky

56

34

0.607

Semyon Varlamov

39

23

0.59

Andrei Vasilevskiy

56

33

0.589

Jonathan Quick

53

31

0.585

Anton Khudobin

24

14

0.583

Connor Hellebuyck

55

32

0.582

Frederik Andersen

57

33

0.579

Devan Dubnyk

50

28

0.56

Aaron Dell

20

11

0.55

Darcy Kuemper

20

11

0.55

Alex Stalock

20

11

0.55

Braden Holtby

48

26

0.542

Henrik Lundqvist

56

30

0.536

Jonathan Bernier

30

16

0.533

Ben Bishop

49

26

0.531

Tuukka Rask

44

23

0.523

Robin Lehner

47

24

0.511

Jimmy Howard

49

25

0.51

Cory Schneider

38

19

0.5

Jacob Markstrom

48

23

0.479

Jake Allen

44

21

0.477

Chad Johnson

21

10

0.476

Cam Ward

36

17

0.472

James Reimer

34

16

0.471

Craig Anderson

47

22

0.468

Cam Talbot

56

26

0.464

Anton Forsberg

26

12

0.462

Matt Murray

37

17

0.459

Mike Condon

22

10

0.455

Keith Kinkaid

27

12

0.444

Carey Price

42

18

0.429

Brian Elliott

40

17

0.425

Jaroslav Halak

44

18

0.409

Petr Mrazek

27

10

0.37

Thomas Greiss

22

8

0.364

Scott Darling

34

12

0.353

Anders Nilsson

22

7

0.318

 

After getting crushed by Pekka Rinne in the head-to-head playoffs last week, I can attest to how ruthlessly consistent he has been for fantasy owners all season. It’s a major feather in his cap towards Vezina consideration. While his competition is fading, Rinne continues to play at an elite level.

The problem with quality starts is that it’s not a very predictive stat. It can tell you what has happened, but not necessarily what will happen. This study shows that simple save percentage does a better job of predicting future quality start percentage than does past quality start percentage. That bodes well for guys like Price, Murray and Talbot who have all battled with consistency this season.

Check out the same list of starters this time ranked by career quality start percentage and also with their career save percentage included:

 

GS

QS

QS%

Career QS%

QS% DIF

Career SV%

Antti Raanta

38

24

0.632

0.638

-0.006

0.919

Philipp Grubauer

21

15

0.714

0.625

0.089

0.924

Aaron Dell

20

11

0.55

0.622

-0.072

0.921

Tristan Jarry

22

14

0.636

0.609

0.027

0.909

Tuukka Rask

44

23

0.523

0.605

-0.082

0.922

John Gibson

51

33

0.647

0.605

0.042

0.922

Corey Crawford

27

17

0.63

0.603

0.027

0.919

Henrik Lundqvist

56

30

0.536

0.601

-0.065

0.919

Sergei Bobrovsky

56

34

0.607

0.598

0.009

0.92

Cory Schneider

38

19

0.5

0.597

-0.097

0.921

Braden Holtby

48

26

0.542

0.597

-0.055

0.92

Martin Jones

49

31

0.633

0.596

0.037

0.917

Roberto Luongo

26

17

0.654

0.591

0.063

0.919

Frederik Andersen

57

33

0.579

0.586

-0.007

0.918

Pekka Rinne

51

35

0.686

0.581

0.105

0.919

Carey Price

42

18

0.429

0.579

-0.15

0.919

Ben Bishop

49

26

0.531

0.572

-0.041

0.919

Robin Lehner

47

24

0.511

0.564

-0.053

0.916

Kari Lehtonen

21

15

0.714

0.561

0.153

0.912

Craig Anderson

47

22

0.468

0.559

-0.091

0.915

Semyon Varlamov

39

23

0.59

0.559

0.031

0.916

Jonathan Quick

53

31

0.585

0.558

0.027

0.916

Jaroslav Halak

44

18

0.409

0.557

-0.148

0.916

Anton Khudobin

24

14

0.583

0.554

0.029

0.916

Brian Elliott

40

17

0.425

0.553

-0.128

0.913

Jonathan Bernier

30

16

0.533

0.549

-0.016

0.914

Jimmy Howard

49

25

0.51

0.548

-0.038

0.915

Marc-Andre Fleury

37

26

0.703

0.548

0.155

0.913

Matt Murray

37

17

0.459

0.546

-0.087

0.918

Thomas Greiss

22

8

0.364

0.545

-0.181

0.913

Cam Talbot

56

26

0.464

0.545

-0.081

0.919

Devan Dubnyk

50

28

0.56

0.545

0.015

0.916

Alex Stalock

20

11

0.55

0.544

0.006

0.912

Mike Smith

49

31

0.633

0.54

0.093

0.914

Chad Johnson

21

10

0.476

0.538

-0.062

0.912

Jake Allen

44

21

0.477

0.534

-0.057

0.913

Cam Ward

36

17

0.472

0.532

-0.06

0.909

Scott Darling

34

12

0.353

0.531

-0.178

0.912

Connor Hellebuyck

55

32

0.582

0.53

0.052

0.917

Andrei Vasilevskiy

56

33

0.589

0.526

0.063

0.918

Petr Mrazek

27

10

0.37

0.519

-0.149

0.912

James Reimer

34

16

0.471

0.509

-0.038

0.914

Keith Kinkaid

27

12

0.444

0.506

-0.062

0.91

Carter Hutton

25

18

0.72

0.504

0.216

0.916

Darcy Kuemper

20

11

0.55

0.486

0.064

0.913

Mike Condon

22

10

0.455

0.477

-0.022

0.907

Jacob Markstrom

48

23

0.479

0.472

0.007

0.907

Anders Nilsson

22

7

0.318

0.416

-0.098

0.907

Anton Forsberg

26

12

0.462

0.371

0.091

0.901

 

If the best predictor of future consistency is simple save percentage, you could do worse than going into your draft with a list of starters ranked by career save percentage. I put more art than science into building my pre-season goalie tiers, but I put roughly 40% weight into the strength of team, 40% into past performance (consistency) and 20% into injury history.

Given the weight that team factors carry we are still months away from being able to rank goalies for next season.

*

Frederik Andersen was forced from last night’s game with an upper-body injury after Roman Polak dumped Alexander Radulov on top of him:

 

Curtis McElhinney came on in relief and hung on long enough to secure a shootout victory. The Leafs have two capable netminders in Garrett Sparks and Calvin Pickard waiting in the minors should Andersen miss any time.

With the Leafs facing a back-to-back tonight, you can bet that Andersen won’t be playing.

James van Riemsdyk netted a hat-trick. This was just his second game of the season skating more than 18 minutes. His roles has been diminished but is still heavily used in offensive situations. I worry that someone is going to give him a Lucic-esque contract, but he can help a team looking for a good net-front option.

*

This season had been going so well for Kari Lehtonen

 

*

Alexandar Georgiev has moved to 3-2-0 as a starter with four quality starts. Not a bad run for a rookie on a stripped-down team. You know that I believe any goaltender can have utility in a small sample. This looks like yet another example.

*

Not all of my post-deadline takes have worked out great, but so far Derick Brassard is struggling to produce in a reduced role in Pittsburgh. He has three points in eight games, while averaging a little over 15 minutes per game. Even his shot volume is down a bit with 18 SOG in eight games. For keeper leaguers, you can’t be too enthused that he is locked in for one more year in Pittsburgh. Sure, they have fire power, but isn’t going to see too many shifts with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, which really reduces how lucrative this spot can be.

*

After a couple of games out Oscar Klefbom returned and produced a goal and an assist, making the past couple of weeks a highly productive run for the struggling defenseman. I wish they’d just shut him down and get his shoulder surgery over with, to avoid risking any damage and to get his rehab going to be ready to play games that matter.

The Oilers continue to experiment with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on Connor McDavid’s wing. He has three goals and five points in six games since returning. It’s awfully hard to fail skating alongside McDavid, but this duo has been dangerous.

Kris Russell was lost to a hand injury after (what else) blocking a shot.

*

Forget the Calder, give Brock Boeser the Hart trophy. The Canucks have scored just three goals in five games since he got hurt and have been shutout in three straight contests. This is how you tank!

Bo Horvat has just one point in those four games. I haven’t forsaken Horvat yet, but we’re getting close.

*

Has anyone seen Jonathan Marchessault? He has now gone six straight games without a point, crushing fantasy owners during their playoff matchups. The absence of Reilly Smith is notable in this run, but is that really all it took to push him into a cold streak?

*

Jared Spurgeon will miss at least four weeks after partially tearing his hamstring on Tuesday night. This ends a breakout season for the 28-year-old. With 37 points, he finishes one shy of the career high he set last season, but he seemed like a sure bet for 40+ points.

Over the past four seasons Spurgeon has been right on that borderline for fantasy relevance, but finally tipped over the edge with enhanced power play usage. He ranks 20th in goals among defensemen (tied with teammate Matt Dumba) over this stretch, and 37th in defenseman points. No one ahead of Spurgeon has less than his mere 37 power-play points. His 13 PPP and 2:37 PP time per game are both career highs.

Spurgeon will be a final round target for me next season. You can almost punt one defenseman slot expecting to get him last round. That’s how overlooked I expect him to be after this injury. Hell, he was overlooked all season despite grading out as a top-40 defenseman in standard leagues.

The only real mark on Spurgeon’s record is that this continues a run of injury-proneness. In seven seasons since making the league full time Spurgeon has missed 84 games, an average of 12 per season. Availability is the best ability. I am more than willing to gamble on health in a head-to-head format where I just need health come playoff time, you may be less willing to do so in points-only formats.

Dumba will take on a heftier load and has done well when called upon to do so in the past. He could have an explosive final dozen games although in such a small sample this could swing either way.

Losing Spurgeon won’t help Minnesota’s playoff hopes, or their hopes of making noise once they get there. Devan Dubnyk has been much improved in the second half. Maybe this won’t affect him too much. It’s too late to make any changes even if it does.

*

Tony DeAngelo will miss 3-4 weeks with an ankle injury. Seems like a missed opportunity for the young defenseman. With the Rangers’ rebuilding, and also absent Kevin Shattenkirk, there have been minutes to go around. DeAngelo has skated 17 minutes a night with secondary power play time over the past two months. He hasn’t been particularly productive, with seven points in 24 games since being recalled, but if he was going to produce, it needed to be now. He’s already on his third team in three years as a pro. He’s only 22, so there is still time, but this was a big opportunity. No guarantee the Rangers are this bad next season.

*

Dobber’s latest Top 200 Forward Prospects list is out. It’s worth noting because he finally graduated a bunch of rookies who were well established, so this list gives you a better idea on where to rank prospects sitting outside the NHL.

*

Pierre LeBrun raised the notion of expanding the playoff field in his piece for The Athletic yesterday. To which I respond, you could expand the playoff field to 30 teams and the Sabres still aren’t making it.

In all seriousness, I am pro expansion of the playoff field, but with a few caveats. Yes, expanding the playoff field would diminish the regular season to some degree. Good! The regular season is a slog. 82 games is about a dozen too many. Give me a 70-game season that’s a couple of weeks shorter, has no bye weeks, fewer back-to-backs and no three games in four nights that put incredible strain on the league’s elite talent. It’ll never happen because of ticket revenue, TV rights deals, etc. but if you were starting a league from scratch today, you’d never have an 82-game season. This is pure momentum.

Anyways, in my reduced season scenario, you’d have at least two extra weeks to play with, but I wouldn’t even necessarily use them in expanding the playoffs. Instead, I’d use them to eliminate June hockey, which amazing as it is, is simply too late in the year to host the Stanley Cup finals. It’s gorgeous outside in June. You lose casual fans by that point in the year.

Expanding the playoffs gives you a chance to recoup some of the revenue lost by cutting the season down, because whatever type of play-in format you choose it’s going to be must-see TV. And these are playoff games, so owners are going to crank up ticket prices for these events like they always do. It won’t balance out completely, but it’ll do a good job.

I know there is concern that expanding the playoff pool would diminish the playoff race, but I think it would enhance it. Let’s say you had two play-in games in each conference, with 7-10 and 8-9 facing off for the seventh and eighth spots in the true playoffs. Well now you’ve got three lines teams are trying to cross. Teams would still push to get a high seed for home-ice advantage, but you’d also have teams pushing to make top-six in the conference to escape the play-in. You’d have teams pushing to finish seventh or eighth to get home-ice in the play-in. Lastly, you’d still have teams clawing to get into the play-in at all.

In past seasons we’ve had what amounts to a play-in game on the final day of the regular season with teams facing off for the chance to make the playoffs. You could still have those in this scenario! This mechanism just guarantees that you’ll have at least four each season, instead of the current method where the NHL schedules all the teams to play divisional games on the final day and praying for fireworks. Also, these play-in games would be played with playoff rules. So instead of a FUCKING SHOOTOUT potentially deciding who makes the playoffs, you could have sudden death overtime, the way it was intended.

Expanding the playoffs would have some unintended consequences like reducing the number of sellers at the trade deadline. It could also lead to some random results like a 10-seed potentially knocking off a 1-seed ravaging the heavyweight matchups we crave to see. But the playoff format already has a lot of randomness. I don’t see how this would make it worse.

The one genuine concern that I have is that it may actually be advantageous for teams to play the play-in game. By getting their feet wet in a playoff atmosphere while their top-seeded opponent sits around for days waiting, the low-seeded play-in team may come into game one better ready to compete.

*

As I noted earlier in the week, the countdown to summer is on, so each day I do the ramblings I'll be focusing on larger topics like I did with goalie consistency off the top. If you have any topics you wish to see covered, give me a shout in the comments below.

Thanks for reading, you can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.

 

 

  • Mathieu

    Hi Steve. Can’t believe we’re already counting down to your last rambling before the summer.

    As a larger topic, I’d enjoy reading about how we can evaluate what teams are built to have more than two relevant fantasy defencemen. Decent blueliners are hard to find in keeper league’s drafts, because the first two options on each NHL squad are almost always already protected. So you need to find depth out of the third (or fourth?) guy on the defensive chart (unless you can find a ready-to-play gem, as there is always room at the top, but that’s not what I want to focus on).

    Some teams have success having three or more fantasy-relevant defencemen (Nashville, Calgary), most teams have two good options, and some teams can’t get more than one or even none going (looking at you, Edmonton).

    I know talent and power play minutes play a part. But what else could we be looking at to try and find in what teams lie the most adequate depth ? Coaching style, deployment, history of regular partner, playing style of the player itself, etc.?

    Thanks.

  • MarkRM16

    Ever since I started watching hockey as a kid and playing it, I’ve wondered: why are there so many regular season games? It makes sense if you’re one of the few big market teams where you can count on every seat being filled regardless of how poor the team is playing due to the large population of fans, and it’s good for TV revenue, but that leaves a lot of teams unable to do so. It’s not as bad now with revenue sharing, but there are still some significant downsides.

    1) Playing so often increases the potential for injuries, worsened by the already poor ice quality in southern cities being even worse in the spring and early summer, affecting the play and increasing the potential for groin injuries.
    Players will suffer from more travel fatigue, leading to tired players under-performing, which hurts their team and lessens the entertainment value.
    3) There are many games that aren’t important in the standings, allowing teams to sit players towards the end of the season to give stars some much-needed rest before the playoffs – players the fans have spent money to see play. For instance, Pens Fans paying hundreds of dollars to see stars like Crosby, Malkin, Letang, and other important players end up watching depth players and AHL call-ups instead because tired players need rest and healing from the wear and tear of an unnecessarily long season to be fresh for the playoffs, expecting a refund would be totally reasonable.

    Reducing the number of preseason games, dropping the RS to 70 or less, and making the 1st round a best of 5, I think, would increase the quality of the game significantly. I’m not a fan of bye weeks, but they’re clearly necessary when players see so much action.

  • anonymouse

    Maybe write something on potential breakout candidates for next year? Obviously this site writes a lot about potential breakouts, top prospects etc. so might be redundant to do it in the ramblings, but am interested in seeing who might be next years’ Mikko Rantanen, Sean Couturier or Sebastian Aho.

    Here’s a list of guys I’ve thought of, I think maybe 2 or 3 will have big, big years next year:

    Travis Konecny
    Nick Bjugstad
    Kevin Fiala
    Pavel Buchnevich
    Kyle Connor
    Jack Roslovic
    Oliver Bjorkstrand
    Artturi Lehkonen
    Christian Dvorak
    Kevin Labanc
    Charles Hudon

    • steve laidlaw

      This is in the hopper.

  • Striker

    More than 1/2 the teams in the NHL make the playoffs today, when we expand to 32 it will be 1/2. There are to many playoff teams now. It’s never getting smaller but expanding it in a any form would be nothing more than a cash grab & a joke. What other major sport advances 16 teams, essentially 1/2 the league to all play the best of 7? Why are we playing 82 games to pick 16 teams so at least 2 can play another 2 months.

    It’s not just the casual fan lost. I coach baseball & sitting in doors endlessly come May & June is a challenge. I get to watch the odd game but not any where near as much as I would like.

    • anonymouse

      wholeheartedly agree. While a play-in game is nice in theory, in practice it makes the long, arduous regular season even less meaningful. Imagine finishing 10 points better than another team just to play them in a one-off game to see who gets to make the playoffs. What a joke that’d be