Sunday, January 18, 2009

Which Goalie Was Best in the Clutch?

After having dealt with the aggregate numbers, it's time to delve into the individual data to take a detailed look at the situational performance of Belfour, Brodeur, Hasek, Joseph and Roy. The last time I tried to rank them by their high-leverage performance, I put them in the following order: 1. Belfour, 2. Roy, 3. Hasek, 4. Joseph, 5. Brodeur. This time I'm armed with substantially more detailed data, having broken every playoff game they played between 1994 and 2008 (except for 1997) by period and game situation, so it's time to review and update those rankings.

I expected that since all these goalies were pretty good, there wouldn't be a huge difference in their play late in the game. Turns out I was wrong. Here is how the goalies did during the first two periods:

Patrick Roy: 2.16, .923
Ed Belfour: 2.19, .921
Dominik Hasek: 2.11, .920
Martin Brodeur: 1.97, .919
Curtis Joseph: 2.37, .916

Very similar performance all around. Now let's add in their results for the 3rd period and overtime, and I'll also include my "close and late" save percentage, which includes overtime and all third periods that began tied or with a one goal differential.

Dominik Hasek: 1.77, .935 in 3rd/OT, .939 close and late
Ed Belfour: 1.75, .932 in 3rd/OT, .936 close and late
Martin Brodeur: 1.92, .919 in 3rd/OT, .923 close and late
Patrick Roy: 2.22, .919 in 3rd/OT, .905 close and late
Curtis Joseph: 2.08, .918 in 3rd/OT, .912 close and late

Hasek and Belfour significantly outperformed their peers late in games, or at least they appear to have done so. We need to evaluate the team factors before we can make a conclusive statement.

The first situation to look at is when the goalie's team is leading by one goal after 2 periods. How a goalie performs when his team is leading late in the game is probably one of the main measures people use to determine how "clutch" someone is. If a goalie can hold the other team off the scoresheet in this scenario, his team wins, which is a pretty valuable contribution.

Up By One Goal After 2 Periods:


In third periods his team entered leading by one goal, Dominik Hasek had an 0.83 GAA and a .970 save percentage. Did his team's style of play contribute to that? It probably did, but you can factor in an awfully strong team effect and those numbers are still disgustingly good. In Buffalo the shot splits indicate that the Sabres were pretty much hanging on for dear life whenever they got a lead - in all the third periods they started with the lead combined, the Sabres were outshot by nearly a two-to-one ratio and scored on only 5% of their shots, yet they went 21-1 because the opposition almost never scored on Hasek.

The numbers indicate that Curtis Joseph's teams were similar in terms of trading off offence to try to hold the lead. Cujo did pretty well with a .938 save percentage despite getting almost no goal support.

The numbers show that Brodeur, Belfour and Roy all benefitted from teams that were very good at counterattacking when in the lead. Brodeur had a very good save percentage, although the Devils had the best shots for/shots against ratio and probably were mostly outplaying the opposition even while ahead late. I would guess that, with the Devils' strength combined with the opposing team's likely heavy shot bias, Brodeur was probably facing a relatively low shot quality against here. The Devils were noteworthy for having a few third periods where they led but still completely shut down the opposition to the tune of only 1 or 2 shots against in the third period. However, all goalies probably faced somewhat easier than average shots when their teams were ahead by a goal in the third, and Brodeur likely did contribute to his team finishing out games.

Both Belfour and Roy had fairly mediocre save rates. Roy in particularly did quite poorly in this scenario, at least in the portion of his career included in the study, posting a sub-.900 save percentage and allowing the other team to come back to win 9 times.

Next up, how our 5 netminders did when the game was tied:

Tied After 2 Periods:


The tied results are a little trickier to evaluate, because both the shot rates and save percentages depend a fair bit on which team ended up scoring first to break the tie. Roy's win/loss was very good in these situations, yet the numbers indicate that the Avalanche snipers were probably the ones driving the results.

This was the only situation that Hasek's results were not outstanding. His save percentage was not too bad relative to his peers, but he may have let in a few goals at the wrong time since his win/loss record was worse than expected.

Joseph again did pretty well but got very little goal support, and that is reflected in his record.

Belfour significantly outperformed everyone else here, but his numbers show that the Dallas Stars were an elite team in tied games late.

Belfour in DAL: 31-18 SF/SA, .952 Sv%, 2.17 GF/60
All other teams: 20-32 SF/SA, .934 Sv%, 1.55 GF/60

Since it is a similar scenario, let's look at overtime results as well:



Put these two scenarios together, and Ed Belfour was the guy with the most success in tie games. Belfour and Hasek were both strongly outshot on average in OT, yet played well enough to help their teams to a winning record.

Roy's overtime legend is well established, and these numbers do not disappoint. The shots for and against numbers seem to indicate that Colorado trusted their goalie enough to play a more open style of game in overtime, and their offence and Roy's goaltending combined for some pretty good results.

I've been critical of Martin Brodeur's overtime record before, but to be fair he has had abysmal goal support. His save percentage has not been outstanding in OT, but most of the blame should fall on the shooters. Once again Curtis Joseph did not get much goal support, but he also didn't make as many saves as he should have in sudden death play.

The final game situation was when a team is trailing. Which goalie was best able to hold the other team off and allow his team a chance to tie the game?

Down by One Goal After 2 Periods:


The answer, once again, is Dominik Hasek. Hasek faced the most shots of any of the goalies, and had a dominating save percentage (.955). Hasek's goal support was about average, but his team went 8-9 in games they entered the third period trailing by a goal. For comparison's sake, the average winning percentage of the other 4 goalies combined was just 26%. Belfour again joined Hasek well clear of the rest of the field.

Somewhat interestingly, the goalie that got the most support in this scenario was Curtis Joseph, the same guy who had the least goal support at pretty much all other times. Joseph's teams had a very strong outshooting rate when trailing, but Cujo's performance was not very good (.883).

If I had to rank the goalies based on their overall performance in high-leverage situations, the top choice is pretty obvious: Dominik Hasek. Hasek was great in OT, dominating when his team was trying to mount a comeback, and virtually unbeatable when they had the lead. Hasek's career was great, but his results in Buffalo were even better - as a Sabre, Hasek's "close and late" playoff save percentage in 1,167 high-leverage third period and OT minutes was an astonishing .949.

Ed Belfour takes the second spot comfortably, with Brodeur and Joseph pretty close for 3rd and 4th. Somewhat surprisingly, Patrick Roy ends up in 5th.

Roy and Joseph both suffer a bit because the 1997 playoff season is missing here. I have no doubt that Roy's playoff results in Montreal would look very strong, although they would need to be adjusted somewhat to the league scoring averages to make for a fair comparison with the Colorado numbers. I do suspect that we would see some strong team factors at play with Roy's numbers as well, however, since the Canadiens had a strong defence. The evidence here suggests that the Avalanche did not have a particularly strong team defence, but their high shooting percentages were a big help for Roy.

This whole exercise helps describe a bit more of the team context these guys were playing in. Most of all, however, it shows that Dominik Hasek was the best goalie of his generation, and that his advantage over his peers was even greater when the chips were down.


Anonymous said...

What, if anything, this shows is that obviously in most areas Hasek was far superior to his counterparts.

What is not mentioned, is that out off all of them, Brodeur is the most consistent. Considering part of the Brodeur legend is consistency, I think it would be fair to say that he lives up to that, which especially in the playoffs, is very important. Night in, night out, this situation or that situation, with Brodeur, you know what you are getting.

Belfour I think was very solid, and remember specifically his performance in the first 3 rounds of the playoffs plus games 5 and 6 of the 2000 cup finals, as spectacular. On the other hand, he had a tremendous defense in front of him, much like Brodeur, and I would even go as far as to say he benefitted more from it than Brodeur did from his.

Roy I personally think just happened to play for really good teams. His overtime legend seems to be similar to the all time greatest Brodeur case in which a lot of stars just happened to align, and there are enough awards and accolades that make it tough to argue against, but I do think Roy's reputation is way out of line considering he had almost double the goal support of his peers, plus the fact that he played in the biggest hockey market in the world, thus his legend grew because of a media outlet not experienced by Hasek, Brodeur, and Belfour.

JLikens said...

Nice post.

It's too bad that there isn't any data on shot quality prior to 2002-03 the season.

Just as game situation (leading/trailing) has an effect on shooting/save percentage, so too does team quality and team style (as you're well aware).

If I had to rank those goalies according to the shot quality they likely faced over the relevant period (from easiest to most difficult), it'd be something like this:

1. Brodeur
2. Belfour
3. Hasek
4. Joseph
5. Roy

Both Brodeur and Belfour (in Dallas) played on defensively oriented teams that didn't take a lot of penalties.

The Hasek Sabres allowed a lot of shots but were likely fairly average with respect to shot quality. The Hasek Wings, I think, were also fairly average here as well, although much better at shot prevention.

The Joseph Leafs played a fairly wide open style (led the league in goals in 1998-99) that was probably somewhat prejudicial to Joseph's save percentage. The same applies to the Roy Avalanche -- probably moreso.

Anonymous said...

Love your very in-depth work all the time. Thank you. I have posted a link on my site

Matt said...

Fantastic stuff CG.

The caveat of yours (and anon #1) that I would echo most strongly is just the bit about how this evaluates ~ the full career of the other 4 guys, but not Roy.

Just how good or bad his Habs teams were is rightly the subject of some debate, but surely all these rates (certainly the OT ones) of his would go up if his Habs years were included.

That said, I have no problem accepting your conclusion that "Roy w/ Avs" is inferior to the other 4 guys' career numbers.

Anonymous said...

Great work. However, wasn't there a signif. difference in league save pct in the early part of your study ('94-'98) as compared to the later years? E.g. pre-Michelin Man goalie equp't vs. ridiculously oversized Michelin Man goalie equpt.

Anonymous said...

I still think Belfour primarily benefited from a great team in front of him. All of his stats, with the exception of a couple years in Toronto late in his career, have been either mediocre or slightly better than average, just like Marty Brodeur.

I would say the same is not nearly as true of Roy. He carried the Avs to two Stanley Cups when their respective Finals were dominated by the opposing teams (first the Panthers, and then the Devils), and before that, he stood tall when the Gretzky- and Robitaille-led Kings dominated that SCF series.

As for CuJo, I would say he is above average, but as your own stats show, just not quite good enough in the playoffs.

I would say the two finest playoff goaltenders of the modern era are Hasek and Giguere, period.--Brian Banker

Anonymous said...

@the most recent post

Roy carried the Avalanche? Are you serious. In 2001 he won the Conn Smythe but there were other players much more deserving of it. And to say that the finals where dominated by the Panthers is an absolutely joke. You are aware the Avalanche swept florida right? And the New jersey series was close, but by NO means dominated at all by New Jersey. Roy only won the Conn Smythe that year because there were too many other choices at forward, which made the goalie the choice by default.

Belfour was hardly mediocre, again if youve ever watched any of the games he had during the 99,00 playoffs you would know that. And I always love the argument that starts with, take away these years... Well take away anything and you can make the numbers say exactly what you want them too. Again, I admit I think Belfour benefitted from his defense, saying he was only "slightly above average" is pretty stupid. Same goes for Brodeur.

And Since when does having 2 or 3 good playoff years make a goalie the best of a generation, let alone the modern era. No doubt Giguere was phenomenal in 03, but when the chip were down so to speak, Brodeur completely outplayed him with 3 shutouts, and a fourth same that went into overtime 0-0. Aside from that, there is hardly enough evidence at all to even suggest Giguere as one of the best modern era playoff goalies.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

Just with respect to era effects:

1994-1998: .909 save %
1999-2008: .916 save %

There was a difference, but I don't think it would have been enough to change the relative rankings all that much, especially since all the goalies played multiple playoff series in the early to mid-1990s.

Anonymous said...

Go look up the shot totals of the Panthers/Avs SCF series on the Hockey Summary Project, and you will see why I stand by my claims. The Panthers outshot and dominated the PLAY of that series. Roy did need to be great in order to win it.--Brian Banker

Anonymous said...

I dont care what way you or anyone else present the numbers. Sweeping a team 4 straight, scoring at least 3 goals in every game but one, including 8!!! in game 2 indicates that Roy wasnt the main reason for Colorado's success. Not to mention that although he was excellent in game 4's 3 overtime game, he was completely outplayed by Vanbiesbrook. Looking at box scores a decade later and making a claim based on what? the number of shots? does not stock up to the actual footage of the games, in which the Avalanche showed complete control more often than not.

Anonymous said...

Dude, the Pans outshot the Avs in EVERY GAME. Vanbiesbrouck just came to earth in the finals, and the Avs had about ten times the skilled forwards as the Pans, but the latter still dominated. End of story.--Brian Banker

Anonymous said...

So what if they outshoot them? Outshooting a team is not always an indication of who controlled the play. When you win 8-1 your goalies play is largely irrelevant. There are quite a few reasons why the Avalanche beat the Panthers, Roy really wasnt one of them. Maybe without Roy the win in 5 games or 6 tops, but they still win, easily.

Bruce said...

Dude, the Pans outshot the Avs in EVERY GAME.

Uh, Dude, this is from the Hockey Summary project:

Game 1: Colorado 30 Florida 26
Game 2: Colorado 30 Florida 28
Game 3: Florida 34 Colorado 22
Game 4: Florida 63 Colorado 56

Which by my scientific count concludes each team outshot the other twice in the series, with the Panthers holding a slight 151-138 advantage over the four games. In keeping with the whole point of this thread, bear in mind that Colorado held the lead for about 120 minutes of the series the three entire third periods of Games 1, 2 and 3; Florida led for just 24 including 0:00 in the third period of any game. Like Boston over St. Louis in 1970, the only reason anybody remembers the series is because of Game 4.

To call that domination -- at least, by Florida -- is a bizarre interpretation.


Anonymous said...

Yea but in game 3 Florida dominated completely by 12 shots, and also did in game 4. The shots of games 1 and 2 don't count because Florida was slumping. End of story. --Brian Banker

Anonymous said...

OMG Martin Brodeur has a 1.000 SV% this season. Eight of his games aren't counted because he didn't get a shutout. End of story.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

Brian: I think if my latest work on score effects tells us anything, it is that you can't just look at the shot totals and tell which team had the edge in play. A small edge in shots should not necessarily be interpreted as domination. It could easily be driven by score effects, penalties, team offensive tactics, etc. Shot quality is also important.

Like Bruce pointed out, Colorado spent most of the time in the lead. The two teams also had different offensive styles of play - Florida scored through quantity of chances and throwing pucks at the net (averaged 32 shots per game and 9% shooting percentage during the playoffs). Colorado had a stable of snipers and didn't need the same number of shots to score goals (averaged 30 shots per game and 12% shooting percentage).

Most of all though, having watched some of that Stanley Cup Finals, I'll just echo the others here and say that Colorado was the better team in the series and Roy, although playing well, did not have to be a difference-maker.

Bruce said...

The shots of games 1 and 2 don't count because Florida was slumping.

*raises eyebrowns incredulously*
Roy was a difference maker playing behind the Colorado Avalanche against a third year expansion team in a slump??!!

Bwaahahahahahaha!!!! I like your sense of humour, Brian.

Anonymous said...

Brodeur has the Worst Playoff over- time record in Hockey.

If thats not "clutch" then I dont know what is.

Bruce said...

Brodeur has the Worst Playoff over- time record in Hockey.

I didn't even have to go off this list to find somebody with a worse record -- Curtis Jospeh has a lower winning percentage and a far worse GAA in overtime. He doesn't have quite so many total losses, as his teams don't tend to survive deep into the playoffs so he has far fewer GP overall (110 to 168 for the period under review). Brodeur has suffered from a terrible lack of offensive support in OT, by far the lowest in the group and less than half of Roy's just in the period under review, which doesn't include Roy's "legendary" year when the Habs must have had a 20% Sh% in overtime.

Play long enough, and sooner or later the puck will find one net or the other. I still remember the classic four-OT goaltenders' duel in Brodeur's rookie year, when Hasek pitched a 70-save shutout at the Devils to win Game 6. Brodeur, choker that he is, bounced back to win Game 7, 2-1.

Then there was the 2000 Finals when Belfour and Brodeur clashed for five overtime periods over two consecutive games, the Stars winning the first 1-0 in triple OT to force Game 6. Brodeur, choker that he is, won that one 2-1 in double OT as finally one of the Devils got around to sticking the puck in the other guys' net.

Anonymous said...

Marty's Better :0)

Anonymous said...

First of all the 96 cup was won by Roy in the conference finals against the 62 win detroit red wings. That's where Roy showed his value. Florida was just passing by but Florida beat the high powered pens and flyers to get there. Secondly if brodeur didn't allow OT goals in the first 5 minutes of OT then his team would have a chance to score. In 2001 new jersey was the highest scoring team in hockey while playing the trap. Roy shut the door and deserved the Conn smythe. None of the other goalies even have 1 Conn smythe let alone 3. Also detroit won the cup without hasek before and after he came. They couldve won with osgood. Colorado in 2001 finals didn't have forsberg as he was injured. The biggest thing is that Roys teams would never have won the cup without him. That's why long time rival Ray bourque actually stated that he wanted to play with Roy as his goalie because it was his best chance to win a cup.

Anonymous said...

Obviously this is an old post, but I do think you run into logic issues when you immediately attribute the Stars success in tied games to the team as the dominant factor rather than Belfour's influence in making that the case. The Stars were an elite team in tied situations, but the reason was also Belfour which was a was brought to the forefront when Turco replaced him. Suddenly, the Stars weren't elite late in games. They were extremely average to below average.

This may be viewed as anecdotal, but Belfour's greatest asset was that in a tied situation, he was rarely the first one to blink and when he did you could often say, "he had no shot at stopping that."

Belfour's greatest weakness tended to be at the beginning of games, late when he was up by large amounts, or the once and a while psychological meltdown. That said, no one discounts it.

I guess I'm just saying, I'm not sure why you would minimize what really was the best part of his game while bringing to the forefront is save percentage which often suffered from those problem.

It's like ignoring that Hasek's numbers (especially his extremely high SV %) seems clustered from his playing days in Buffalo but not mentioning it. And I'm not saying we need to downgrade Hasek's stats, I'm just saying it's odd to poke holes in one guy's stats and ignore someone else's. Hasek, like Belfour, like Brodeur, and like Roy all had a bit of alchemy brewing with the teams they were on. And that alchemy tended to mean they were good at different things. After all, starter and backup statistics tend to correlate so it's possible that Hasek simply spent the most time on the best defensive team. I just don't think it's fair to Hasek to discount him like that.

Anonymous said...

Leaving out 1993 when Patrick Roy went 16-4 and had the best run of any goalie in any playoff? That removes any credibility. Sorry, useless article.

Anonymous said...

Cujo cannot be categorized as a clutch goalie he never won a cup. I dont care how good his stats may have been, your not clutch if you never won a cup. Anyone can be good in the regular season. To truly judge the clutchness of a goaltender is to look at their performance in the playoffs where it matters.

Host PPH said...

I don't think that it will be different the position that they will get with these kind of data.

Host PPH said...

I don't think that it will be different the position that they will get with these kind of data.

Anonymous said...

This is why stats can be misleading and are far from proof in this instance. Any "clutch" list that has a guy who didn't even win a stanley cup in Cujo is invalid. Additionally Belfour who lost more stanley cup finals then he won.

Anyone who watched the nhl playoffs from 1979 onward will tell you that there are only two names in clutch playoff goaltending: 1. Billy Smith, 2. Patrick Roy (impossibly close 2nd) end of discussion.

Unknown said...

That is a stupid reason to discount Belfour, by that logic I discount Roy for having lost more playoff series against Belfour than he won.

Anonymous said...

Lots of great points. But when you talk clutch goalie a money goalie a playoff goalie the man is and always will be BILLY SMITH. The man gretsky called greatest goalie he ever faced

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