Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Patrick Roy Never Singlehandedly Won Anything

It's playoff time, which means it is time to cue the cliches like "you need goaltending to win" and "best goaltender wins" and "he needs to come up with some timely saves" and so on. The ultimate honour, of course, is to be called "clutch" and to be given credit for singlehandedly winning a series or even a Cup for their team.

But does that ever actually happen? Most hockey fans will point to Patrick Roy, in 1986 and 1993 as an example of a goalie that won it all by himself. Unfortunately, this view is quite wrong. Patrick Roy was another goalie that showed that the goalies get too much credit for the play of their teams. He was the beneficiary of some powerhouse Montreal teams, and in his entire career he never played on a weak team with the exception of 1994-95. That doesn't mean he was not a great goalie, just that he never singlehandedly won anything despite what his fans repeatedly claim.

The Canadiens were consistently outstanding for nearly Roy's entire career in Montreal. Take a look at their year-by-year goal differentials: +47, +50, +36, +60, +97, +54, +24, +60, +46, +35. In the decade from 1984-85 to 1993-94, Montreal outscored their opponents by 509 goals over 808 games. That was the second best mark in the league behind only Calgary. Here are the top 5 teams in the league over that time period ('84-85 to '93-94, W-L-T-Pts-Goal Diff):

1. Calgary: 433-274-101, 967 pts, +590
2. Montreal, 430-274-104, 964 pts, +509
3. Boston, 412-294-102, 926 pts, +334
4. Washington, 413-312-83, 909 pts, +327
5. Edmonton, 399-314-95, 893 pts, +292

Calgary and Montreal were the class of the league. So is it surprising that Montreal won 2 Cups? Not really. After a decade of being a top-5 team they should be expected to win a Cup or two.

Now the fact that the Canadiens had Roy certainly has some bearing on that impressive record. But goalies played less back then, and about 40% of Montreal's games had someone other than St. Patrick in the net. In those games, which featured mostly weak goalies like the notorious Andre "Red Light" Racicot, Montreal went 170-128-45. This was not up to their usual standards to be sure, but is still roughly equivalent to Washington's record in the table above, showing that Montreal was a top team even without Roy.

When you look a little deeper at the 1986 and 1993 squads, it becomes clear that they were both very impressive teams that underachieved during the regular season but showed their strengths in the postseason. The 1986 Habs had the third best goal differential in the league, and appear to simply have been a victim of bad luck in close games as well as the tough Adams Division, where every team was .500 or better. Montreal went 15-15-2 against their divisional opponents, and 25-18-5 against everyone else. They may not have been overloaded with goalscorers beyond Mats Naslund and Bobby Smith, but they had a lot of excellent two-way forwards like Guy Carbonneau and Bob Gainey, and a strong blueline led by Larry Robinson and Chris Chelios.

It was a similar story in 1993. In fact as late as March 13, 1993, the Montreal Canadiens were actually in first place in the entire NHL. Then they hit a late season swoon, and were edged out by both Boston and Quebec for the division title. The 1993 version was a similar mold - a few gifted scorers (Damphousse, Bellows, Lebeau), mixed with a large group of strong two-way forwards like Muller and Keane and a solid group of defencemen.

The two teams were both lucky enough to avoid the top teams come playoff time, a significant factor in their success. In the two runs combined, Montreal never played a single team with more regular season wins than them, and they were probably the best team in all 8 matchups.

Another overhyped achievement is Roy's overtime record in the '93 run. People will often refer to the 10 straight OT wins right up alongside Roy's 4 Cups and 3 Conn Smythes as proof of his greatest-of-all-time status. In those 10 games combined, Roy played a total of 96 minutes of shutout hockey in OT. A valuable contribution, and a noteworthy one to be sure, but not such a singularly impressive accomplishment that it should automatically crown him as the greatest ever. There are a number of goalies that have strung together 2 or more shutouts in a row at key times in the playoffs, some of them even doing it against better opponents, yet without even a small fraction of the hype.

Patrick Roy had very good save percentage numbers, a substantially better winning record than his backup goalies, and some excellent playoff performances. However, he was definitely advantaged by the teams he played on, which were nearly always dominant, even in Montreal, and even in 1986 and 1993. Therefore, the label he often receives of having carried a weak team to victory is undeserved. In the final reckoning, given his opportunities and talented teammates, Roy probably won about what he should have.

18 comments:

a witness said...

Right you are. It is good to see what i have always thought broken out into some facts.

thanks for the post.

Anonymous said...

You never seem to challenge the rise in Roy's numbers in those 1986 and 1993 playoff runs, and their superiority to each respective season's best goalie and Montreal's competition in the Finals.

1986 Roy in Season: 3.35, .875
1986 Vezina Winner: 3.32, .887
1986 Playoff Finalist: 2.93, .897
1986 Roy in Playoffs: 1.92, .923

1993 Roy in Season: 3.20, .894
1993 Vezina Winner: 2.59, .906
1993 Playoff Finalist: 3.52, .887
1993 Roy in Playoffs: 2.13, .929

It's okay to say that Montreal had good teams, but to say that Roy won what he should have, based upon Montreal's regular season numbers, is a little unfair. No other championship winning goaltender in-between the 1986 and 1993 Stanley Cups was able to post a GAA at or below 2.00 or a SPCT at or above .920 during their Cup run.

Roy wasn't just another goalie on a Stanley Cup winning team, and you appear to be portraying him as such. If you want to compare him to another Conn Smythe winner of that era, Bill Ranford (2.53, .912 in the 1990 Playoffs), Roy's numbers in 1986 and 1993 were significantly better.

You can challenge the word "singlehandedly," yes, but when it comes down to it, if the Patrick Roy of the 1986 and 1993 Regular Seasons had showed up in the playoffs, Montreal wins neither championship.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

Of course Patrick Roy played well in 1986 and 1993. Nobody is going to dispute that, and I never claimed that. He was great, and deserved his Conn Smythe Trophies. That is not the same as saying he won singlehandedly, though. Playing on a weaker team, or facing stronger opponents, Roy could have played as well as he did without winning anything.

You are still missing the point, by focusing only on the two seasons that Roy actually won. Patrick Roy had 9 playoff seasons in Montreal. All of them were with very good teams. He went out in the first or second rounds a bunch of times, and one year even lost his starting job to Bryan Hayward. So if you look just at 1986 and 1993, he looks great. If you consider that he was playing with a Cup contender for 9 years in a row, then 2 Cups seems closer to par for the course.

The chances are pretty good that somebody as good as Roy would hit a playoff hot streak or two at some point over his career in Montreal, or, as was the case in 1986 and 1993, his team would get some luck with soft playoff matchups. Cups are partially a numbers game - play enough times with a good team and there's a good chance you will end up getting hot or lucky and end up winning it all.

Anonymous said...

I'm not quite sure how I'm missing the point by only focusing on 1986 and 1993. Those are his Montreal Cup years, and if we're talking about how he "singlehandedly" won Cups, those should be the years in question. Whether or not he "singlehandedly" won the Stanley Cup in 1986 and 1993 is not at all affected by his performance in any other year, and by stating that he and the Montreal Canadiens were more or less due to win a Cup eventually takes away from what they did in their two successful runs. More than that, it in no way gives us a sense of what matters when determining how important it was for Patrick Roy to play better in those playoffs than what could be reasonably expected of him (a GAA that was 1.40 lower and a SPCT that was .036 higher than the 1986 Vezina Trophy winner; 0.46/.023 in 1993).

Yes, Montreal was a good team from 1986-1993, but being a good team does not mean that you're automatically going to win the Cup one day. The Flyers had a good team in the 1990s, but they weren't given any championships, because they didn't earn any. Things have to come together and certain players have to step up. In the case of the 1986 Montreal Canadiens, Roy stepped it up more than he probably should've been able to based upon the regular season numbers.

In 1986, Montreal got good offense in the regular season, however, no player on the Montreal Canadiens was at a point-per-game average during the playoffs, something that cannot be said about ANY of the other teams in the playoffs that year. They only scored 16 goals in their 7 game series against Hartford, about 1.85 less goals per game than what they had during the regular season, the only place you looked at when you determined whether or not they were good enough to win the Cup. Without a goalie that lets in only 13 goals in those 7 games (a sub-2.00 GAA, again over 1.30 less than what the Vezina winner achieved), the Canadiens do not advance, therefore do not win the Stanley Cup.

Your argument, which you specifically aim at Roy for getting praised for "singlehandedly" winning championships, isn't fair to Roy. I agree that if Montreal were a weaker team and, say, only scored 10 goals against the Whalers, they wouldn't have won the Cup, but you're using this media exaggeration to make it seem like Roy was just another Conn Smythe winner in 1986 and 1993, when he was more than that.

Patrick Roy "played well"?

Somebody "as good as Roy"?

Find me a goalie from the four-round playoff era whose single year playoff statistics were that much better than the Vezina winner's from the same season. Patrick Roy played otherworldly, and the words "hot or lucky" do not do him justice, no matter what you think of the media tossing around the word "singlehandedly." Quite frankly, it just looks like you used it as an excuse to rag on Roy.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

My response was directed at your comment that it was unfair to say he won about what he should have. You are correct that with respect to his performance level in 1986 and 1993 the other seasons don't matter.

J.S. Giguere in 2003 comes immediately to mind as somebody who way outperformed the Vezina Trophy winner. However, I think I didn't express myself clearly enough regarding Roy's performance. Patrick Roy's playoffs in 1993 is one of the very best playoff performances by a goalie in the modern era. He was outstanding. It was never my intention to criticize Roy, but simply to illustrate the team context that he played in as part of my ongoing argument that goalies are just part of the team.

The reason for doing so is that Roy in 1993 is one of the most common counterarguments received against the position that goaltending is not nearly as important as the rest of the team. Many people like to portray the 1993 Habs team as a bunch of scrubs that were carried to glory on the back of Patrick Roy, when in reality they were in the running for the best team in the NHL almost the entire season, even with Roy having an off-year. They showed it in the playoffs too by going 16-4. Sure Roy helped them win a lot of overtime games, but (other than the Quebec series) they could have lost a couple more games each series and still had a chance to advance.

In 1986, Roy was playing well behind a good defence against relatively weak playoff opponents. He also played in the Adams Division, where teams knew how to play defence. You mentioned Hartford - just look at their goalie Mike Liut's numbers in the 1986 playoffs: 1.90 GAA, .938 save %. Liut was a decent goalie playing on a good defensive team that just wasn't good enough to beat the Habs. In the playoffs, because of the small sample size, opponent matchups heavily affect the sample. The average playoff opponent in 1986 scored 319 goals that year compared to the league average of 317. Roy faced only 25 shots per game during those playoffs. The main reasons the 1986 Canadiens won the Cup were soft playoff opponents (i.e. didn't have to beat the Oilers) and strong team defence, which is again why it is a huge stretch to say Roy won singlehandedly.

Anonymous said...

gigeure got lit up in the finals while brodeur posted 3 shutouts including game 7, it was a travesty giguere won the conn smythe.

a witness said...

Could Roy's marked improvement in GAA and Save percentage have anything to do with the fact that the canadiens faced weak opponents.

in '86 the Rangers upset the Flyers and the Caps who were the only awesome teams in the Wales that year.

in 93...
it is similar in that the Isles beat the Pens who were easily the best team that season. Also the Bruins being upset by the Sabres was huge.

Not facing GREAT teams will help the numbers EVERY time.

And as far as Conn Smythes go. The goalie is by default in top three consideration. The team's best offensive player and the team's best defensive player and the goalie. I mean, even Cam Ward won the Conn Smythe while even being pulled in a game!? Why? Because the Canes had no clear cut offensive leader.

Er, except in Brodeur's case where a defenseman won it and Claude Lemieux got one. Which really cracks me up. In Brodeur's cup runs he lost out on the Conn Smythe to Claude Lemieux, Scott Stevens and the losing team's goalie. Wow, that hurts.

Anonymous said...

You point out their amazing goal differential over his career in Montreal. Lets see what would make that happen, scoring lots of goals or having a all-time great goalie who didn't let to many in?

Those teams with a normal goalie were average at best. He made the difference. you say that 10 straight overtime victories are nothing compared to 2 consecutive shutouts in the playoffs. yeah there is not much pressure if a team is up 4-0 or even up 1-0 when you still have time to come back, but in sudden death when the next goal means win or lose there is a lot of pressure so its not the same thing at all.

Anonymous said...

you seem to make your whole argument on the theory of goal differential, so im going to shatter that right now. If Patrick Roy doesn't let any goals in, the goal differential is going to be higher. Simple. Nice try though.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

Anonymous: I agree with you that a great goaltender will help his team's goal differential. But you missed the whole backup goalie comparison above, where I pointed out how Montreal did when other goalies played (170-128-45). Even without Roy in net, the Canadiens were a dominant team.

In the Cup-winning years, Roy allowed pretty much the same number of goals per game as his backup goalies did, yet the team still had a strong goal differential.

1985-86: Roy 3.35, Backups 3.48
1992-93: Roy 3.20, Backups 3.34

Does having Patrick Roy in net help a team's goal differential and success? Of course. Would the Canadiens have been an average or weak team without Patrick Roy? Not a chance.

Anonymous said...

Roy is terrible. Brodeur is better in every way. Roy always had the benefit of playing for great teams stacked with superstars.

Don't get me wrong, Roy is an all-star and a hall of famer...but not the greatest of all time.

That title clearly belongs to Brodeur. Had he not been injured, and involved in a lockout & a cancellation of an entire season, Brodeur would be flirting with 700 wins sometime next season if not the one after.

There can only be one greatest. one. Martin Brodeur!

Anonymous said...

Brodeur is the same as Roy with the whole "singlehandedly" business. Brodeur's Devils have been a top five team in the league since Brodeur entered. Have a look at Hasek's 93-02 for a look at a goalie doing something "singlehandedly". About the Roy overtime record:

Much is made over Roy's 10-1 overtime record in 1992-93 but few seem to care that Giguere and the Ducks went 7-0 in overtime in 2002-03. Despite playing in 11 overtime games Roy only played 111 minutes in overtime that season, average of about 10 extra minutes in games that went to the extra frame. Giguere played in "only" 7 overtime games but played 169 minutes in overtime, far longer than St. Patrick, making his performance that much more impressive. That averages to 24 extra minutes when the game went to overtime.

Herbert said...

I can't believe you are serious about this. You can't place this much emphasis on statistical figure or anything this is ridiculous. He is the greatest positional goaltender ever. The man had great footwork and excellent timing. And it's impossible for a goalie to win a game on his own until we learn to snipe from the red line, but Roy did an amazing job. You're nuts.

Anonymous said...

I'm a huge fan of stats and a huge fan of hockey. But digging in and basing your entire argument on sats and the semantics of 'singlehandedly' is pointless. We could argue forever about players from different eras etc. But the main point should be that in the 80's, 90's, and the early 21st century Roy was the best goalie playing. Yes, there were others, Brodeur, Hasek and a few others, but if you were to ask any NHL manager or coach during those years who they would want for a goalie, Roy would be their man. It's undeniable. Now, you can say that their view was perhaps tainted by the media blowing up Roy's profile and legendary status... but you cannot claim that any other goalie would have demanded the same attention and would've been as successful as Roy. Any goalie would have done what Roy did in Montreal or Colorado? Are you serious? Hayward? With your logic, Thibault should've brought the cup to Colorado before Roy did!!! Any goalie could have won, right? And to say 1993 Montreal was a team destined for victory is a complete exaggerration. There were at least 6 teams with a better goals against average and 8 teams that scored more goals. What that breaks down to is a good playoff team, no guaranteed cup. What is sad about all this banter, is that you are diminishing Roy's performances based on 'IFs' not history or facts. Not to mention diminishing the level of competetion by the opposing teams in the playoffs... I'm sure under your scrutiny they all don't deserve to be there. It was all luck and fortune for Patrick Roy. Maybe that's it, Roy was the LUCKIEST, not the best... ahhh thank you for hard work. 'IF' it were another goalie they would still have won? Is that all your saying? Who knows and who cares, but facts are facts, stats don't neccessarily equal cups... outstanding performaces do, and Roy was the best of his era.
You are also forgetting is the role of management. I won't argue that Roy's teams weren't good. Roy deserves credit for indirectly helping build a franchise. With an allstar keeper management will do their best to put a good team in front of him. This goes for nearly all championship teams. This backfires too, and we see time and time again when mangement builds the best team possible only to have their star goalie pull a Potvin, Cloutier, Giguire, Habby, Kippy the list goes on. And stats too will change. So, to say that Roy's teams were better than average any other playoff team is wrong. Nearly all teams playoff bound are built with this framework of putting the best team possible in front of the goalie. To say Roy won it 4 times with such competetion is an amazing accomplishment. And in '86, '93 Montreal was nything but the leader of the pack.
Lastly, 'singlehandedly'. Where did you get this quote from!? Sources please! The only thing you've proven is that no player, goalie, forward or defense can win 'singlehandedly'... I'm pretty sure the last time that happened was when Gretz played Pee-Wee. Take this word with grain of salt, but do not take it out of context. And don't take away from what Roy's accomplished.

Al said...

First of all, Roy is easily the 3rd best goaltender of all time, and 2nd in NHL history. Nobody wins championships single-handedly, but a goaltender can steal games. Roy was one of the best at doing that. A goal can be scored within seconds of the start of overtime, but Roy managed to string together 10 straight playoff overtime victories. Yes, a lot of that can be attributed to the team, but the goaltender is the last line of defense. It only takes one shot going in the net to score. Roy didn't let any past in 10 straight playoff overtimes.

I have no problem looking at statistics as evidence, heck I'm a math major, but there are a lot of intangibles involved here as well. As a Devils fan, I'm even willing to admit that Brodeur isn't the best goaltender of all-time. Best of the NHL yes, but Vladislav Tretiak was the best goaltender of all-time in my opinion. It's a shame we never got to see him play in the NHL.

Anonymous said...

Two things: first save % isin't always that significant. A teem can give lots of shots from the outside and make the goaly look good save % wise. Secondly, if the '93 habs had such a good team, why did they need 10 overtime wins. A good, very good or great teem doesn't need that many ot wins to win the cup.

P.s. Singlehandedly it this case is a mater speech, obviosly since hockey is a team sport.

Anonymous said...

Two things: first save % isin't always that significant. A teem can give lots of shots from the outside and make the goaly look good save % wise. Secondly, if the '93 habs had such a good team, why did they need 10 overtime wins. A good, very good or great teem doesn't need that many ot wins to win the cup.

P.s. Singlehandedly it this case is a mater speech, obviosly since hockey is a team sport.

Anonymous said...

For 44 years, from the 1942-43 season right up to 1986-87, the Montreal Canadiens beat the Boston Bruins in the playoffs every time. The Habs won 18 series with goalies from Bill Durnan to Jacques Plante, Rogie Vachon, Gump Worsley to Ken Dryden the winning went unbroken. Then came Patrick Roy. His playoff record against the Bruins? Three series wins, five loses. Greatest goalie ever? Roy isn't even the greatest Canadiens goalie ever. Not by a long shot.