Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Dominance of the Red Wings

I was browsing on Hockey Numbers' site looking at his always interesting expected goal numbers, and the numbers for Detroit are just eye-popping. I just wish that the TV broadcasting crews would look at these types of numbers before continuing to fall over themselves in praising Chris Osgood for his supposedly outstanding play.

Since Osgood became the starter, Detroit has allowed just 22.5 shots per game. These shots have generally been low quality shots, so the expected goals against have been just 11 goals in 8 games, according to Hockey Numbers. These are based on league averages, so you can do the math to figure out that a league average goalie playing Osgood's playoff minutes on Detroit should have about a 1.40 GAA and a .940 save percentage. Osgood's actual numbers: 1.47 GAA, .935 save percentage.

What about that 9-0 record? Is that impressive? It really isn't so hard to predict when you look at the numbers at the other end of the ice. Detroit has 37.2 expected goals in 8 games with Osgood as their starter (game 3 vs. Dallas hasn't yet been updated). That means with neutral goalies, Detroit wins pretty much every game 4-1 or 5-2. The Red Wings have been so dominant that the closest game in terms of expected goals that they have played since switching to Osgood was their 8-2 blowout in game 4 against Colorado.

Osgood has outplayed Dominik Hasek, but that is more an issue of time finally catching up with the Dominator - Hasek played a poor game 3 that cost Detroit a win, and was mediocre in game 4 when Nashville actually outplayed Detroit. But since the goalie switch Detroit's team play has improved, and they have been absolutely unstoppable at both ends of the ice. Maybe that can be attributed to Osgood's calming influence or something, but I really doubt it.

My intention is not to criticize Osgood, because he is not playing poorly. He is taking care of business, and I am sure Detroit is quite happy with merely decent goaltending. But it isn't my intention to praise him either, because he is not playing any better than the other goalies still left. Osgood is doing his job, just like, say, Brad Stuart is doing his job, or Kris Draper is doing his. The difference is that Osgood is wearing a different set of pads than the rest of his team, so he gets more credit for it.

Detroit isn't the first team ever to completely outplay their opposition in the playoffs, so it makes you wonder: How many other Osgood-types were there who became legends because of their playoff success on dominant teams? I'd wager there were more than a few.

6 comments:

Bruce said...

I just wish that the TV broadcasting crews would look at these types of numbers before continuing to fall over themselves in praising Chris Osgood for his supposedly outstanding play. ...
you can do the math to figure out that a league average goalie playing Osgood's playoff minutes on Detroit should have about a 1.40 GAA and a .940 save percentage. Osgood's actual numbers: 1.47 GAA, .935 save percentage.


Due respect to JavaGeek and what he's doing, but I have trouble with any system that projects an expectation that is off the charts. The all-time seasonal record for Sv% is .937 (Hasek at his most Dominant), and somehow Detroit's goalie is "expected" to perform at .940?! The conclusion, that Osgood's .935 and 1.47 marks are somehow less than they could be, is absurd.

What about that 9-0 record? Is that impressive?

Nah, if he was a real difference-maker his record would be at least 10 and -1.

Osgood is wearing a different set of pads than the rest of his team, so he gets more credit for it.

Maybe I'm watching the wrong shows, but to me Osgood is getting about as much credit as he deserves. The talk surrounding Detroit has been about 1) Franzen 2) Datsyuk 3) Zetterberg 4) Lidstrom 5) Kronwall 6) Holmstrom with human interest stories in Chelios and McCarty and perhaps even my fellow Newfoundlander Dan Cleary. Osgood is down there in the mix, important to be sure by nature of his position, but hardly being feted as the reason Detroit is rolling through the playoffs. At this point he's just another great player on a great team.

Detroit isn't the first team ever to completely outplay their opposition in the playoffs, so it makes you wonder: How many other Osgood-types were there who became legends because of their playoff success on dominant teams? I'd wager there were more than a few.

Do you think Osgood is becoming a legend? I sure don't. I think he's being given credit where it's due, of being a solid player on a real solid team. As you say, he's done his bit. The Red Wings are a dominant enough team that they just need their goalie not to lose the games they "should" win, which is to say, most of them.

As for your question about other "legends", do you consider Tom Barrasso a legend? He won a couple of Cups, but when people think of those Penguins teams they don't think of Barrasso. Is Mike Vernon a legend? He won two Cups on great teams. Neither one is even in the Hall of Fame.

Like the skaters, some goalies are stars and some are role players. A successful team needs plenty of both.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

Are those stats overstating the team effect? Maybe. But it is over a small sample size, so the comparison to the best season doesn't really fit. The league record for the best save percentage over an 8 game stretch is quite a bit north of .937. Giguere had an 8-game run of .966 in the 2002-03 playoffs, for example. When a goalie is playing well for a very dominant team, you can get extreme results, like Terry Sawchuk's 0.62 GAA in 8 consecutive wins for the 1952 Red Wings.

In Detroit's first 4 games against Nashville, the expected numbers were 2.08 GAA and a .919 save percentage, which is probably closer to their typical level.

No, I don't think Osgood is becoming a legend. I phrased that poorly - my intention was to point out that if somebody like Osgood played a number of years on a dominant team, he would experience a lot of team success that could make him legendary in the eyes of some. Guys like Vernon and Barrasso aren't really legends either, but what about someone like Gerry Cheevers? He is in the Hall of Fame solely because of his playoff performance on dominant teams, even though his regular season numbers were fairly ordinary. For example, his best finish in GAA was 6th in the league, and he was never rated a First or Second All-Star goalie. You saw Gerry Cheevers play, was he a lot better than Chris Osgood? Playoff success alone doesn't say much, because the expected goals stats show that truly dominant teams can win almost regardless of the goalie they have or the goalie they face.

Like the skaters, some goalies are stars and some are role players. A successful team needs plenty of both.

Agreed.

Bruce said...

Guys like Vernon and Barrasso aren't really legends either, but what about someone like Gerry Cheevers? He is in the Hall of Fame solely because of his playoff performance on dominant teams, even though his regular season numbers were fairly ordinary.

I'd say Gerry Cheevers is in the Hall solely because of his neat mask. In my view he was (and remains?) overrated. He played just 418 regular season games in the NHL and 88 in the playoffs. His playoff performance was OK, not great (.657 W% in the regular season, .609 in the playoffs). He won two Cups, including the 1972 Cup in which he and Eddie Johnston alternated games (Cheevers 6-2, 2.61; Johnston, 6-1, 1.86). Cheevers also played the Montreal Canadiens in 6 playoff series and lost all 6, some when the Habs were the dominant team, but at least once (1971) when Boston was at their peak, and Cheevers got outplayed by the pre-rookie Ken Dryden. To me that Boston team was dominant enough that they "should" have won at least three Cups.

He played the better part of four years in the WHA, in which his regular season numbers were substantially better than playoffs. Certainly nothing there to add much to his HHoF credentials. Perhaps the fact that the Orr-era Bruins didn't win any more Cups during the years he was away somehow added to his legend. ("The Bruins aren't the same team without Cheevers".)

You saw Gerry Cheevers play, was he a lot better than Chris Osgood?

No, certainly not "a lot" better. Probably not any better. He did have a certain charisma however which made him a little larger than life. Not the first borderline guy in the Hall, and probably not the last; by no means is that restricted to goalies.

Playoff success alone doesn't say much, because the expected goals stats show that truly dominant teams can win almost regardless of the goalie they have or the goalie they face.

Truly dominant teams don't happen every day, or even every year. The closest thing these days is the Wings, who have had at least 108 points in 8 consecutive seasons, and (2008 results pending) they have won exactly one Cup in that time, which would seem to belie your assertion.

A truly, truly dominant team has great goaltending to go with great everything else. The Habs of the 70s would be the poster boys for this; on the rare occasions that their opponents could break through the defence, the best goalie in the league was there to break their hearts.

Bruce said...

Like the skaters, some goalies are stars and some are role players. A successful team needs plenty of both.

Agreed.


Hey, that's a start! :)

Another thing you and I agree on, CG, is that Dominik Hasek deserves heavy consideration as the greatest goalie of all time. He's probably "stolen" more games than anybody, and while well past his prime is still quite capable of it. Even since his late-career return to the Red Wings I have seen some extraordinary moments from the Dominator. Some of those "moments" have lasted for 60 minutes, such as his stone-cold brilliant effort in shutting out Anaheim in Game 3 of last year's Conference Final.

The very odd thing about the Wings is that they have such a star rusting on the bench behind the role player. The 2008 Red Wings don't need anybody to steal them wins, however; all they need from either Hasek or Osgood is sustained competence.

Yet a third thing on which we agree is that the 2007-08 Red Wings are a truly dominant club. The Wings outshot their opposition in 70 games this season, winning 50 of those games. On average they outshot their opposition by an average count of 34.4 : 23.5, representing the best total in the league in both categories. By sustaining middle-of-the-road Sh% (just 8.9%) and Sv% (.909), the Wings were generally a goal a game better than the opposition simply based on the flow of play.

In the playoffs they've actually improved both numbers, to 36.4 : 23.4.

In Detroit's first 4 games against Nashville, the expected numbers were 2.08 GAA and a .919 save percentage, which is probably closer to their typical level.

Sounds pretty close to business-as-usual. As it happens those were Hasek's four starts, including the one game these whole playoffs where the Red Wings actually got outshot.

It's also pretty close to the defensive norms established by the Wings this season. With their embarrassment of riches within the crease as well as beyond it, they were able to split time almost equally. Each goalie had 27 wins in 40 decisions, allowing exactly 84 goals. (Osgood: 2.09, .914; Hasek 2.14, .902), perhaps the most equal partnership to ever win the Jennings Trophy.

It's an interesting partnership in that both men were reacquired by Detroit having previously backstopped the Wings to the Stanley Cup. That was 6 years ago in Hasek's case, a full decade in Osgood's; but the team is clearly comfortable that the pair of savvy vets will fulfil the role, and they have done so brilliantly. The only thing different about the playoffs is the coach likes to stay with the hot hand, and after Hasek's little blip in Nashville (7 GA on 42 shots) Osgood has given Babcock no reason to change his mind, or his netminder, again. But you know Hasek is ready, willing, and able if Osgood falters or gets hurt; what a jewel to have in reserve!

The 2008 Red Wings are so Dominant they don't need the Dominator. But it's nice to have him there all the same. What a team! (goalies included)

Anonymous said...

did u not get picked to be backup for your high school JV b team? not only do you hate brodeur but now osgood? i guess its good for brodeur fans to read this to let you know that you have a hatred for goalies in general, not just marty who probably walked by you pretending not to see you when he saw your nerdy ass going to ask him for an autograph. (wow, i can see why you write this page, trashing people is fun!)

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