How To (Over)Analyze Goaltenders

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Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit has the most injuries in the NHL this season of teams that didn’t sign injured players in the off-season (Looking at you Columbus, you knew Nathan Horton was going to be out half the year, he doesn’t count!) I was going to start writing about this, but found it entirely too depressing. Then I looks at the standings and saw Detroit outside of a playoff spot yet again, and I felt more depressed. So I started writing about something else, and choose “What’s the best way to look at Detroit’s goaltending?” Stats never tell the whole story, this is true. But often they give us a great insight into how things are going for an individual player, particularly when compared to other players on the team. It’s important to consider other things that may account for changes in each player’s stats, for example, a goalie that plays behind a lineup that includes Jonathan Ericsson on the top line may fare better than one that has Brendan Smith taking that spot. But for the purpose of this article we’re going to try to keep things simple. We won’t be using any advanced or “fancy” stats in this, mostly because I haven’t bothered to learn any of them other than CORSI (I’ll be the first to admit that I probably should though.) For this look, we’ll be using simple things the NHL looks at: Win/loss record, Goals Against Average, and Save Percentage. I’ll also only be focusing on the three Detroit seems to be putting into action lately- Jimmy Howard, Jonas Gustavsson, and Petr Mrazek. The stats will be taken from ESPN because for my money they seem to keep the best ones and the most detailed ones. Now that all the introduction is out of the way, let’s have fun… with numbers! Wins and Losses

Jimmy Howard

Jonas Gustavsson

Petr Mrazek

9-12-8

13-4-3

1-3-0

29 games played

21 games played

7 games played

Right off the bat, you may notice that Jonas Gustavsson has considerably more wins that Jimmy Howard so far this year, despite playing in fewer games. You may also notice Petr Mrazek’s record doesn’t quite add up to 7. Allow me to explain the latter. If a goalie gets pulled and Mrazek goes in for relief, it counts as a game played for Mrazek. However, if Mrazek goes in for a period and a half, plays a solid game, and Detroit loses, it doesn’t count as a loss for him, and why should it? He’s not the one that got them in that mess. So Mrazek has played partial games at least three times. Of course, if he goes in to relieve say, an injured goalie and he ends up giving up the goal that cost the team the game, well then that counts as his loss, not the previous goalie’s.

Regarding Gustavsson having more wins than Howard, this is far more complicated than it appears. Part of Howard’s eight overtime losses came during that stretch in November when Detroit couldn’t seem to win a shootout against a pee-wee team. Howard may have played spectacularly, October 21st against the Sharks comes to mind, but you can hardly fault him for the team in front of him failing to score.

Furthermore, with different injuries in place, you can’t really compare the two goalies because they have practically different teams in front of them. Jonas Gustavsson’s loss against Philadelphia last night sans Franzen, Zetterberg and Datsyuk is hardly comparable to Howard’s October 9th victory over the Flyers with all three of them in the line up, even if Howard had to keep Detroit in the game despite being outshot.

What these comparisons can tell us, is that Wins/Loss record definitely isn’t the best way to evaluate your goalies. Hockey is a team sport after all, and you can’t judge individuals based on what a team does while they’re playing.

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