How To (Over)Analyze Goaltenders

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Goals Against Average

If you had no idea what the actual formula for this is, don’t feel bad, I had no idea for years. Goals against average is the number of goals allowed, multiplied by 60 (minutes in a game) ,  divided by the actual minutes played by that goalie.

(GA*60) / Minutes played = GAA

It can sound complicated, but it really isn’t. Howard plays a full game, allows two goals. (2*60)/60 = 2.00. Good job Howard! Games played gets taken into consideration with this formula too, as if Howard allowed 80 goals over the course of 40 full games his GAA would be (80*60)/(40*60) = 4800/2400= 2.00. Wouldn’t that be nice on a season?

Comparing the three Red Wings goalies this year is where things get complicated.

Jimmy Howard

Jonas Gustavsson

Petr Mrazek




29 games played

21 games played

7 games played

So yeah, about this… The issue right off the top with GAA is it gives you almost zero context unless it’s compared to that of other goalies in the league, as well as the team’s offense. The 2008-2009 Washington Capitals spent time between two goalies, with GAAs of 2.87 (Theodore) and 2.81 (Bret Johnson). These are considered uncharacteristically high of a successful team, but the Caps won 73.8% of their games that year, most due to averaging 3.82 goals per game that year, making a high GAA irrelevant. In relation to the Red Wings, these GAAs aren’t particularly impressive. In terms of the league, Detroit sits about at the middle with 14th in GAA, but this is brought into context given that Detroit averages 2.49 goals scored  per game (21st in the league). In comparing Detroit’s goalies, GAA won’t tell you much. Considering much of Mrazek’s time on the ice has come when he was relieving someone else, his GAA would be lowered considerably by the increased time on the ice without playing a full game (or facing a full game’s worth of shots). Jonas Gustavsson’s GAA is marginally better than Jimmy Howard’s, but even then we’re left asking ourselves a lot of questions. Who has to face more power play opportunities? Does the defense play more conservatively with the ‘back up’ in net? Is either goalie facing more or less shots each game? Much like win/loss record, Goals Against Average doesn’t tell us much.

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