So you fancy a look at the playoffs in a different light and subscribe to the theory that a great goalie can carry a team to the Stanley Cup and want the numbers to back you up in an argument. Good thing you’ve turned to us because it’s high time someone did take a look at how the 16 goaltenders in the NHL Playoffs shake out statistically speaking. Brandon gave things a look over this morning so feel free to give it a look to compare notes.
If you’re looking at goals against as a measuring stick, some of the top choices may catch you a little off guard. I’m listing off those goalies that either have been or are presumed to be the starters for their teams for the playoffs.
1. Tuukka Rask (BOS) 1.97
2. Ryan Miller (BUF) 2.22
3. Martin Brodeur (NJD) 2.24
4. Antti Niemi (CHI) 2.25
5. Jimmy Howard (DET) 2.26
6. Ilya Bryzgalov (PHX) 2.29
7. Jaroslav Halak (MON) 2.40
8. Evgeni Nabokov (SJ) 2.43
9. Pekka Rinne (NAS) 2.53
10. Jonathan Quick (LA) 2.54
11. Brian Elliott (OTT) 2.57
12. Roberto Luonvo (VAN) 2.57
13. Craig Anderson (COL) 2.64
14. Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT) 2.65
15. Brian Boucher (PHI) 2.76
16. Jose Theodore (WAS) 2.81
For those of you wondering if Theodore or Semyon Varlamov is the right choice in Washington, Varlamov’s goals against average is 2.55 in 26 starts this year. Where the difference comes in between the two is in save percentage, and that difference isn’t all that great as Varlamov checks in .909 and Theodore at .911, a difference of .002 percent and barely negligible given Theodore has played 21 more games, his statistics tell a little bit more than Varlamov’s do.
As for the save percentages of the goalies and how they rank out,
things juggle a little bit standings-wise.
1. Tuukka Rask (BOS) .931
2. Ryan Miller (BUF) .929
3. Jaroslav Halak (MON) .924
4. Jimmy Howard (DET) .924
5. Evgeni Nabokov (SJ) .922
6. Ilya Bryzgalov (PHX) .920
7. Craig Anderson (COL) .917
8. Martin Brodeur (NJD) .916
9. Roberto Luongo (VAN) .913
10. Antti Niemi (CHI) .912
11. Jose Theodore (WAS) .911
12. Pekka Rinne (NAS) .911
13. Brian Elliott (OTT) .909
14. Jonathan Quick (LA) .907
15. Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT) .905
16. Brian Boucher (PHI) .899
What the save percentage tells us compared to the goals against
average is that guys like Ryan Miller and Tuukka Rask are, indeed, that
good. It also tells us that Jimmy Howard and Evgeni Nabokov are a bit
better than their goals against averages let on as they’re saving a
higher percentage of shots than some players that are above them in
goals against (read: they’re seeing more rubber thrown at them).
Obviously some of these rankings are a bit skewed due to workload.
Where Tuukka Rask looks unbeatable thanks to playing 45 games, Brian
Boucher looks like a total chump because he’s played in 33 games. Some
of these guys are horses (no, not literally Alex Rodriguez doesn’t play
hockey) and fatigue could be a factor for some of them, especially those
not used to it. Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles played in 72 games this
year and some have wondered aloud about his ability to keep his great
season going. Craig Anderson in Colorado was a career backup before this
season and played in 71 games for a team that started to show signs of
wearing down at the end of the year.
Who’s got reasons to worry out of this? The obvious answers are the
Penguins and Capitals as both Fleury and Theodore are closer to the
bottom of the playoff goalie list. Whether or not Fleury does have an
on/off switch remains to be seen, but he certainly more than proved
himself last year. The Flyers are feeling the burn having to go with
Brian Boucher because, at best, this year he was supposed to be a backup
goalie and now he’s got to carry the team in the playoffs against
Martin Brodeur’s Devils.
If you just want to judge how these series are going to go by stats
alone, you’d be a fool but it’s not a bad starting block to run with. Of
course, how goalies handle playoff jitters and seeing the same team
night in and night out are also thoughts to ponder as well. This year
should shake out interesting as there aren’t a lot of “old standbys”
getting the nod in goal in these playoffs.