Monday, June 22, 2009

Is Marc-Andre Fleury Elite?

In the over-simplified world of sports journalism or Internet hockey message board-fandom, Marc-Andre Fleury is now an elite goalie. If Chris Osgood had stopped both of Maxime Talbot's shots in game 7, however, then Fleury would not be elite (and by similar logic, Osgood would then be deserving of being immortalized as one of the 30 or so best goalies in the history of hockey). Such is the narrow margin of what constitutes "eliteness".

Is Marc-Andre Fleury actually one of the very few best goalies in the NHL today? I don't think so. He played very well in games 6 and 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, but I don't think he was that terrific in the postseason as a whole. In fact, Fleury quite likely had the worst overall playoff season of any Stanley Cup winning goalie in the last decade (.908 save percentage), so it seems a bit curious to me to suddenly claim him to be one of the league's best, no matter how spectacular he was stoning Lidstrom with seconds left to play in game 7.

Since the lockout, Fleury's save percentage has been .908 overall and .921 at even-strength. League average has been about .906 and .918 respectively. I don't think the Penguins are or have been a shot quality outlier (except maybe 2005-06), so those numbers probably give a fairly good indication of what Fleury is: An above-average goalie. On a good day, Fleury's athleticism gives him a higher peak than other goalies of his performance range, but he doesn't appear to be a Lundqvist or a Luongo, despite his more impressive jewellery collection.

Fleury is 24 years old, so it is probably reasonable to still expect some improvement. But goalies generally peak earlier than conventional wisdom suggests, and Fleury is likely either just beginning or already in his prime years. He's good enough that most teams would lock him up long-term if they had him, and he will likely give Pittsburgh good goaltending for the next decade or so, but I'm not expecting any Vezina calibre performances (although with Crosby and Malkin up front, the possibility is there for a 45-50 win season that might end up being recognized with some not-necessarily-deserved hardware).

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you for the most part. For the majority of the postseason, Fleury was either alright or not-even. He finally started to turn his game around late in the Carolina series, and after two unlucky first outings in the SCFs, played superbly in every single game except one after that. Needless to say, the great team in front of him made it easier for him to get back on-track after falling into a slump than an average goalie has the luxury of.

The one caveat I will add is that unlike one of your favorite goaltenders, he managed to salvage himself this postseason when the season was in jeopardy of ending (i.e. the latter half of the Washington series, and game 3 onward of the SCFs). That doesn't excuse bad games beforehand, but at least it introduces some balance into the mix. Fleury didn't cost the Penguins any games after they had taken the lead with five goals and were totally dominating their opponent.

So, is he elite? At this point, no. Will he ever be elite? Hard to say. He had an extremely strong '08 (both regular and postseason). Last year could have been an anomalous good year, and this year could be an anomalous bad year. Is he a "clutch" goalie (if you differentiate between that term and elite)? After this run, I think that an argument can be made that at least in some situations, he is.

eyebleaf said...

Agreed, 100%, he ain't elite.

But he did come up with a couple of big games when his team needed them most, so I can give him props for that.

I think the best is still yet to come from MAF, and mother sucka already has a ring.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Fleury is not a Luongo, but to put Lundqvist on a pedestal like that once again takes away from your credibility. This year Lundqvist had an almost identical sqns% as Fleury at .911. And thats before accounting for the ridiculous hometown MSG scoring bias. Last year Lundqvist had a raw save percentage of only .912! The Penguins have never been exceptional on defense. Put Fleury behind the trap first Rangers, and give him the MSG scorekeepers 41 games a year, and his numbers easily look elite. Fleury right now is not elite, but neither is Lundqvist. Luongo is also pretty overrated, but even if overrated is a top 5 goalie in the league, the other 2 are not.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

Re: Fleury vs. Lundqvist, I look at multiple seasons of evidence when I evaluate goalies. Over the last 4 years, there is little doubt that Lundqvist has been better and deserves to rank near the top of the list of goalies. If you look at save percentage, shot-quality adjusted save percentage, even-strength save percentage, Lundqvist is among the leaders since the lockout. He wasn't among the leaders last year, I agree with you, but the guy's still only 27 so there isn't really any reason to expect him to be declining. For now, I'm still comfortable calling him elite based on a multiple season sample.

Having said that, if you look at more recent trends, I would agree that Fleury is trending up and Lundqvist is trending down, and that there may not have been much of a gap at all between them this past season. I don't think it is unreasonable to expect Fleury may surpass Lundqvist over the next few years, but I wouldn't say he has done it yet.

"Luongo is also pretty overrated, but even if overrated is a top 5 goalie in the league, the other 2 are not."

I'd like to hear a case for Luongo being overrated that doesn't refer to the Chicago series. Give it a try. If you find it hard to come up with stuff, you might want to reconsider how much you weight one series against the other 10 years of his career.

Anonymous said...

Re: Fleury vs. Lundqvist, I look at multiple seasons of evidence when I evaluate goalies. Over the last 4 years, there is little doubt that Lundqvist has been better and deserves to rank near the top of the list of goalies. If you look at save percentage, shot-quality adjusted save percentage, even-strength save percentage, Lundqvist is among the leaders since the lockout. He wasn't among the leaders last year, I agree with you, but the guy's still only 27 so there isn't really any reason to expect him to be declining. For now, I'm still comfortable calling him elite based on a multiple season sample.

.............

Lundqvist has only been in the league 4 years. So to say he is still elite despite his past two, most recent seasons is silly. His first year in the league he was great, and his second season was good, but again, inflated by team stats which again is evident in those numbers. Realistically, unless of course you changed the tune you were singing in regards to who is elite and who is not, having one great season 4 years ago does not make a guy elite. Jim Carey was not elite in 2000. Heck Dan Ellis or J.S. Giguere are not elite right now, why does Lundqvist get to have 2 off years and still get the label in your book? This most recent Vezina voting just further proved how his last 2 nominations were fraudulent because guess what? Despite his very mediocre season this year, the results showed that his own GM is still throwing him undeserved first place votes.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

If you're looking at shot quality numbers that don't take scorer bias into account, then maybe Lundqvist's numbers are inflated, but I don't think there is much evidence to suggest his basic save percentage numbers are inflated. The MSG bias doesn't come from poor shot counting, but from poorly recording the actual shot location.

I've seen road-only shot quality numbers that remove the home scorer bias, and the Rangers haven't been an elite shot quality preventing team at any point in Lundqvist's career. The evidence suggests that if anything they were below average in that regard this year and last year.

"Despite his very mediocre season this year, the results showed that his own GM is still throwing him undeserved first place votes."

Very mediocre? That's excessively harsh. Lundqvist was average at the very worst this season. And if you rank every goalie who played at least 80 games over the last 2 seasons, Lundqvist is tied for 9th in save percentage. The guy is having off-years and still hitting the top 10? That's not too shabby.

"Heck Dan Ellis or J.S. Giguere are not elite right now, why does Lundqvist get to have 2 off years and still get the label in your book?"

Giguere still has the elite label in my book. You're writing him off because of one bad year? The binomial probability theory suggests that a .914 goalie will play 46 games at .900 something like 5% of the time. Every year a few guys just get hit by a bullet fired by the gun of random chance and their numbers take a dive, and that's not even taking into account the guys who get affected by things like injuries, personal situations, coaching, etc. This year was Giguere's turn, and everyone will forget about it when he bounces back to his usual .915-.920 range next year.

Dan Ellis' '07-08 was an obvious fluke, and came primarily on the back of a .918 PK save %. This year, he's been unlucky in the other direction (.831 PK save %), and his numbers took a dive. Ellis was never an elite goalie, and he is a terrific example of why you have to look at multiple seasons to assess a guy. Otherwise you are basically measuring luck and calling it skill.

Refer to the latest post at Hockey Numbers, and look at the company that Lundqvist is in. Results are more variable than ability, and given Lundqvist's track record I think his results haven't matched up to his true level of ability over the last two seasons. Maybe I'm wrong, the next couple of seasons will give us more evidence, but that's where I'm placing my bets for now.

Anonymous said...

I guess we just have different opinions on what elite is then. Out of all people I figured you would be the most reserved with labelling a goalie elite, but I guess not. My definition is top 5, yours as alluded to seems to be top 10, which in my opinion is nothing special since you are only better than 2 of every 3 starters; hardly anything worthy of distinction.

Last year Lundqvist was 19th in save percentage, this year he was 11th I think. I am not arguing he has not had a good year or two, but IMO 05-06 was clearly an outlier, as he has not had anything remotely close to that again. My overall stance though, is that EVEN with just about every circumstance (i.e. hometown scoring bias, excellent defensive system the past 4 years, free pass from NY media, bloated win totals from SO, and a guaranteed Vezina vote from Sather) going in his favor, he is still arguably not even a top 5 guy. Being on the bubble as far as elite goes, with all that in his favor, raises enough of a flag to me to hold off calling him one of the top 5 goalies in the league.

Giguere you would have a much better case for, as he has done far more than Lundqvist, but after the horrendous year he just had, I would not say he is top 5 either.

Anonymous said...

Also RE: Ellis, if .917 PK save percentage is an idication of a fluke, then what about .936? Only difference was Ellis's overall save percentage was .926 if I remember correctly, not .916 raw % like Lundqvist this year.

Anonymous said...

"I'd like to hear a case for Luongo being overrated that doesn't refer to the Chicago series. Give it a try. If you find it hard to come up with stuff, you might want to reconsider how much you weight one series against the other 10 years of his career."

I have a lot of respect for what Luongo accomplished on some horrific Florida teams (especially '04), but the past two years have not been "elite" by any means. Look at his final stretch in 2008, which cost a Canucks team that was built around him a playoff spot, or his Steve Mason-like performance in '08-09 (awesome in November, decent-to-average outside of that one month). I'm sure he can have some dynamite bounceback seasons, but I don't think he has earned his paycheck the past two years.

Anonymous said...

"Put Fleury behind the trap first Rangers, and give him the MSG scorekeepers 41 games a year, and his numbers easily look elite."

Dude, that has to be one of the most ignorant hockey things I've seen in ages. Did you see how roundly the Caps dominated the Rangers in this past playoffs?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Dude, that has to be one of the most ignorant hockey things I've seen in ages. Did you see how roundly the Caps dominated the Rangers in this past playoffs?

.............

How so? Fleury certainly played better against Washington than Lundqvist did. I do not know how you are arguing against me and using the Washington series as your sparkling example?lol? It was pretty well noted how in games 1-4 the Rangers defense blocked roughly 25 shots a game, and otherwise did an excellent job of limiting Washington to very low percentage shots. Lundqvist played well, but again, because it was New York, he got all the credit. Then he choked hard when he had Washington on the ropes allowing 11 goals on 56 shots in the final 3 games.

I am not seeing the point you are trying to make? That Washington dominated puck possession against NY? No shit, thats how Washington plays, all offense, no defense, thats why they had a hard time adjusting to the trap like style the Rangers play in the first few games.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

"I guess we just have different opinions on what elite is then. Out of all people I figured you would be the most reserved with labelling a goalie elite, but I guess not. My definition is top 5, yours as alluded to seems to be top 10, which in my opinion is nothing special since you are only better than 2 of every 3 starters; hardly anything worthy of distinction."

My definition is certainly not top 10. I also tend to see top 5 as the cutoff. And over the last few seasons, Lundqvist has been one of the top 5 goalies. The point I was trying to make was that even his off-years were not too bad. Again, everyone has off years. If you write a goalie off every time he has a bad year, you would have written off a guy like Ed Belfour 4 or 5 times. And I'm talking about actual down seasons, well below league average save percentage off-years, results not even close to Lundqvist's fairly solid 2008-09 campaign.

The main difference between us doesn't appear to be how we define "elite", but that you revise your rankings every season whereas I don't. Randomness happens, the numbers do not exactly follow the performance, anybody who has played goal knows this, and you need longer than a single season to sort it out.

Lundqvist has been one of the best goalies in the league since the lockout by virtually any measure. Hockey Numbers has him third in goals prevented and fifth in shot-quality neutral save percentage. I don't see 2005-06 as one fluky season because he was very good in 2006-07 as well. Comparing him to Jim Carey or Dan Ellis is not even a remotely close analogy.

It is a bit concerning, I agree with you, that his numbers have dipped over the last two seasons. It is possible that he will never again play an entire season at the level he did in 2005-06 or 2006-07. But it is also possible that he played at the same level in 2008-09 as he did in 2006-07, and there were just fewer pucks that hit him, or that his teammates were worse.

Take this example: Lundqvist was 19th in the league in save percentage this season. I'd raise the cutoffs and say he was 15th, but it doesn't really matter. If he stopped 5 extra shots that would have been goals, or if 5 shots that went in ended up missing the net, then Lundqvist's save percentage jumps to .919 and he's tied for 6th in the league. That's 5 more shots that hit the post and bounce out, or 5 screened deflections that go wide instead of catching a corner, or 5 lasers from the slot that hit his shoulder instead of the roof of the net, or a few fewer blown coverages or a few rebounds directed slightly differently, you get the idea there's lots of ways it could have happened and most of them are quite frankly pure puck luck, and suddenly Lundqvist is just outside of the top 5 and he's suddenly great again.

That's 5 shots in 70 games, or one every 14 games. Less than one per month. That is the difference between 6th and 15th. And that's why you can't tell whether one big season is a good goalie getting hot or a great goalie playing at his usual level or an average goalie getting unusually lucky or unusually strong defensive help. The answer only comes with a large sample size.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

"How so? Fleury certainly played better against Washington than Lundqvist did."

I never cease to be amazed by how two people can watch the same hockey game and come to such different conclusions.

I thought Fleury came awfully close to costing his team the series against Washington. By pretty much any measure, he was below average. If he didn't get outplayed by Varlamov through the first 6 games, that series wouldn't have even gone 7.

Lundqvist didn't finish well, but his start was terrific and I think you'd have to rate his play as at least average over the course of the series. Even if you want to argue he cost his team two games, he probably stole two as well, and I find it hard to rate him any lower than average over the entire 7 game series. That certainly brings him in comfortably ahead of Fleury.

Check out Hockey Numbers' expected goal figures for each series:

Washington vs. New York:
19.4 expected goals, 19 actual goals

Washington vs. Pittsburgh:
15.1 expected goals, 22 actual goals

I don't even see the debate, to be honest.

Anonymous said...

I'd agree primarily with most of what you've said but again IMO he really has not done anything to spearate himself from the rest of the crowd even with all the things I listed before that seem to be going for him in terms of outside help.

I'd also like to hear what you think about his .936 PK save percentage this season and how Ellis's .918 makes him a fluke but Lundqvists .936 PK vs .916 overall this season was different.

The other thing I would attest to is the 5 shots theory or whatever. Frankly, I saw a ton of him this year viz Center Ice. While it may be subjective as I am not aware of any official stats for this, I will say it seemed like teams were hitting 2 or 3 posts a game quite frequently against him, and that if anything this season if anything could of been far worse. Kind of similar in fact to how you described Chris Osgood in the first few games of the SCF and similar to how Lundqvist fared in games 1-4 against Washington. Sure you would expect this to even out over the course of the season, but it was surprising how frequently guys were hitting posts against Lundqvist throughout this season, and even dating back to the playoffs last year.

Further bias it seems also comes into play when you consider for the better part of the season, really up until the final few weeks of the season, his save % was about .911-.913, then in the final few home games against Montreal, New Jersey, Philadelphia he gets the boost he needs to finish off at .916 by supposedly seeing 30-40 shots a game. Check out the home/road splits for him this season. He was very average on the road, if not below average in terms of shots faced, save percentage, and sqns%. Meanwhile at home he supposedly posted Vezina caliber numbers.

Anonymous said...

Expected goals? what the heck is that as a measure for determining play. Is that the same metric that was used to label the Boston Bruins a supposed fluke? I really do not put much stock in these newly fabricated stats. If I am not mistaken "expected goals" is also the same bogus thing that guy at puck prospectus used to define which goalies are elite simply by using their GAA-"expected GAA". Lets stick with using reliable stats.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

Expected goals just summarizes the probability based on where the shots are coming from. But I can express it another way. I recorded shot locations for every game in the playoffs. So let's compare Fleury vs. Lundqvist in the 4 games in Washington only, to eliminate scorer bias.

Here is where the shots were coming from:

Crease: Lundqvist 21, Fleury 17
Slot: Lundqvist 17, Fleury 17
Mid-range: Lundqvist 31, Fleury 29
Point: Lundqvist 25, Fleury 23
Perimeter: Lundqvist 15, Fleury 25

And here's how they handled them:

Total Shots: Lundqvist 109, Fleury 111
Goals Against: Lundqvist 9, Fleury 12
Save Percentage: Lundqvist .917, Fleury .892
Expected Save %: Lundqvist .906, Fleury .915

This just supports the view that Fleury had an easier time of it than Lundqvist, which is something I bet most people who watched both series would agree with.

Anonymous said...

Thats still not very conclusive of quality. A screened slap shot from the point if far deadlier than a wrap around? Yet according to your basis of "expected" this and that, the crease shot is "higher qualiy", I'm not buying it.

My point as said numerous times, is that Lundqvist and Fleury are not elite goalies, and that Lundqvist certainly is not much better than Fluery. They have just played on teams that play to different strengths. Lundqvist, even more so than Luongo has a horrible playoff resume, while Fleury's is not half bad, some might even call it good.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

"Thats still not very conclusive of quality. A screened slap shot from the point if far deadlier than a wrap around? Yet according to your basis of "expected" this and that, the crease shot is "higher qualiy", I'm not buying it."

For the playoffs as a whole, 19.5% of shots from the crease area went in, while just 4.9% of the point shots went in. It is true that every now and then a goalie faces a really dangerous point shot, but nearly every close-in chance has a high probability of being a goal. I don't think the scoring chances were unusual in either series anyway, because the results were pretty similar to the overall averages: Fleury and Lundqvist combined for an .842 save percentage on shots from the crease area and a .958 save percentage on point shots.

"I'd also like to hear what you think about his .936 PK save percentage this season and how Ellis's .918 makes him a fluke but Lundqvists .936 PK vs .916 overall this season was different."

Lundqvist's penalty kill save percentage was actually .913 this year according to the official NHL stats, as he stopped 334 out of 366 shots against. I'll agree Lundqvist outperformed on the PK, that rate is unsustainable in the long run and I think the Rangers did a good job in front of him. However, Lundqvist's career PK save % before this year was .883, compared to an .865 league average, so part of it is probably that he is a good goalie. On the other hand, Lundqvist didn't get any breaks on the PK, giving up 11 shorthanded goals on 72 shots. That's probably a half-dozen more goals more than expected, especially for Lundqvist who is one of the best guys in the league at saving breakaways and shootouts, so that makes up for most of his outperformance on the PK.

"Sure you would expect this to even out over the course of the season, but it was surprising how frequently guys were hitting posts against Lundqvist throughout this season."

Often it doesn't even out over the course of the season. It's entirely possible that Lundqvist got lucky and should have done even worse this past season. Luck can run both ways. I'm not sure which one is more likely, and it is very difficult to tell. Again, we're talking about 70 games and over 2,000 shots against, it's pretty tough to recall all those events even if you did watch them and the numbers can give us some evidence but it's still a bit of guessing game as to whether the results accurately reflect Lundqvist's play.

"Check out the home/road splits for him this season."

Home: 2.26, .920
Away: 2.63, .912

Career Home: 2.11, .921
Career Away: 2.55, .912

Nothing out of the ordinary for Lundqvist in 2008-09. Teams and players usually do better at home than on the road.

Bruce said...

Take this example: Lundqvist was 19th in the league in save percentage this season. I'd raise the cutoffs and say he was 15th, but it doesn't really matter. If he stopped 5 extra shots that would have been goals, or if 5 shots that went in ended up missing the net, then Lundqvist's save percentage jumps to .919 and he's tied for 6th in the league. That's 5 more shots that hit the post and bounce out, or 5 screened deflections that go wide instead of catching a corner, or 5 lasers from the slot that hit his shoulder instead of the roof of the net, or a few fewer blown coverages or a few rebounds directed slightly differently, you get the idea there's lots of ways it could have happened and most of them are quite frankly pure puck luck, and suddenly Lundqvist is just outside of the top 5 and he's suddenly great again.

Know what the difference between hitting .250 and .300 is? It's 25 hits. 25 hits in 500 at bats is 50 points, okay? There's 6 months in a season, that's about 25 weeks. That means if you get just one extra flare a week - just one - a gorp... you get a groundball, you get a groundball with eyes... you get a dying quail, just one more dying quail a week... and you're in Yankee Stadium.
-- Crash Davis

Anonymous said...

"Check out the home/road splits for him this season."

Home: 2.26, .920
Away: 2.63, .912

Career Home: 2.11, .921
Career Away: 2.55, .912

Nothing out of the ordinary for Lundqvist in 2008-09. Teams and players usually do better at home than on the road.

.............

Exactly my point, MSG is a great place to play if you are a Ranger goalie. it is not surprising his stats over the course of his career are grossly inflated due to poor scoring, even the shot totals, have been shown to be exaggerated, thus inflating the save percentage numbers.

Anonymous said...

Also in regards to PK save percentage, I am almost positive hockeynumbers had it at .936, with the league leader at .938, maybe I read it wrong.

Bruce said...

The point I was trying to make was that even his off-years were not too bad. Again, everyone has off years. If you write a goalie off every time he has a bad year, you would have written off a guy like Ed Belfour 4 or 5 times. And I'm talking about actual down seasons, well below league average save percentage off-years, results not even close to Lundqvist's fairly solid 2008-09 campaign.

CG: Sorry, OT, but can't leave that one alone. Marty Brodeur has had an above league average save percentage in 13 of 15 seasons, and came within .002 the other 2 years. Which by the above logic adds up to Zero down seasons. Why doesn't he get the benefit of the same latitude you're allowing Lundqvist?

Anonymous said...

"while Fleury's is not half bad, some might even call it good."

LOL, so you are calling his performance against Ottawa in '07 "not half bad"?

Anonymous said...

"Why doesn't he get the benefit of the same latitude you're allowing Lundqvist?"

Maybe because (a) nobody is calling King Henrik the best goalie in the world, and (b) because Lundqvist has never had the luxury of playing behind the best defense in the world.

Jonathan said...

"Know what the difference between hitting .250 and .300 is? It's 25 hits. 25 hits in 500 at bats is 50 points, okay? There's 6 months in a season, that's about 25 weeks. That means if you get just one extra flare a week - just one - a gorp... you get a groundball, you get a groundball with eyes... you get a dying quail, just one more dying quail a week... and you're in Yankee Stadium."
-- Crash Davis

Except the probability of getting above average luck 25 times in a row is staggeringly miniscule.

A friend of mine thought that Fleury was playing hurt. He didn't look like himself after the Philly series, and he kept dropping his stick. I don't know if that perception matches reality or not, but Fleury is definitely better than his .908 save %.

Fleury is not elite, but he's not in his prime yet. He's still a jittery goaltender whose confidence sometimes affects his play. He's got some room for improvement yet.

Plus, he genuinely "played well when it mattered most." He played well in games six and seven against the Wings. He also played well in game 3 against the Caps and the Wings, when a loss would have put his team down 3-0 in the series.

Game 7 against the Caps he played well until he gave up 2 goals while his team was up 5-0 and 6-1.

I don't know if Fleury was legitimately clutch or if it's all random (or both), but the results are what they are. He was great when he had to be. He was mud when he lost 5-0 to the Red Wings--he should have given up 2 or 3 goals, so big deal.

This could easily be attributed to randomness. I don't think he'll repeat this performance--his sv% was .944 in elimination games. But he had a very good postseason in that sense--and I usually hate saying this--he really was great when he had to be.

Jonathan said...

Maybe because (a) nobody is calling King Henrik the best goalie in the world, and (b) because Lundqvist has never had the luxury of playing behind the best defense in the world.

(a) That's actually true. People tend to dislike someone for being overrated. I've never understood this, because it's not their fault that people they've never met think so highly of them.

It's also important to remember that while Brodeur is overrated, keep in mind he's being dubbed the greatest of all time. Of course he's overrated. He could be the #10 goalie ever and he'd still be overrated.

The stats indicate that Brodeur has been an above average goalie over the course of almost 1000 games. That's an impressive track record in my humble opinion.

He's also won 3 Cups. While this doesn't mean he's any better at hockey than a goalie with 0 Cups, it does make him "greater." I think there's a difference between "greatness" and "talent." Winning Cups helps the former, and not the latter.

(b) sv% is the one stat category that a strong defense doesn't necessarily help. Even if it does help, it only helps a little and it's primarily an individual stat. So I don't see your argument there.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

"Also in regards to PK save percentage, I am almost positive hockeynumbers had it at .936, with the league leader at .938, maybe I read it wrong."

I think that must have been an adjusted number, I'm pretty sure he includes a shot quality adjustment in his special teams data.

"Marty Brodeur has had an above league average save percentage in 13 of 15 seasons, and came within .002 the other 2 years. Which by the above logic adds up to Zero down seasons. Why doesn't he get the benefit of the same latitude you're allowing Lundqvist?"

First of all, my definition of "elite" here is top 5 in the league, which is a category that Brodeur would likely fall into for most of his career. He certainly does for the same time period we are talking about here with Lundqvist.

Secondly, I think it's overdoing it to accuse Lundqvist of "down" seasons. I'm calling them off-years because they are by the lofty standards he set in 2005-06 and 2006-07, but compared to league average Lundqvist is +.021, +.012, +.003, and +.008 over the last 4 seasons.

Thirdly, we have a lot more evidence on Brodeur, there is a lot more data to support his true ability level. With Lundqvist we have 4 seasons, so we're still guessing a bit at exactly how good he really is. I don't know if he was a bit unlucky last year and has a couple of Vezina Trophies in his future, or if he's going to put up .910 save percentages for the next few seasons in a row. If he does the latter, then in a few years that evidence will be convincing enough that I'll have to conclude that I was wrong, and that Lundqvist probably wasn't a top 5 goalie anymore after 2006-07.

Pretty much we have to decide whether to grade him based on the trend or the aggregate. At this point in Lundqvist's career, I think the aggregate probably contains more useful information.

As far as the lack of down years, that is something that is certainly commendable in Brodeur's record, I don't dispute that. Brodeur has never had a terrible season. But he also doesn't have the stratospheric peaks that some other guys do, so it's a tradeoff. I'd argue that Belfour, for example, is a guy that has more peaks and valleys than Brodeur but ends up in more or less the same place when all is said and done - as one of the best of their era.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

"Except the probability of getting above average luck 25 times in a row is staggeringly miniscule."

You don't need it 25 times in a row. You need it once a week, and that's in baseball. In hockey, the luck element is probably both greater and you need to catch a break less frequently - the difference between average and elite is a save every 3-4 games. And that's what makes it possible, that's why the margins are so narrow, that's why it is so hard to isolate true skill, and that's why it's pretty pointless to say a guy is better because his save percentage was .001 over the course of a single season.

If you look at year-to-year variations in statistical performance in baseball or hockey, you can't do anything other than conclude that luck and randomness can be a large factor over the course of a single season.

Anonymous said...

"(b) sv% is the one stat category that a strong defense doesn't necessarily help. Even if it does help, it only helps a little and it's primarily an individual stat. So I don't see your argument there."

That's not true. If you have a good defense, you aren't just allowing fewer shots, but the ones that do get through are less dangerous and more peripheral.

Bruce said...

If you have a good defense, you aren't just allowing fewer shots, but the ones that do get through are less dangerous and more peripheral.

Is that just an opinion, or can you support that with actual evidence? I agree it's true in unbalanced competition but that's not the NHL last time I checked.

Anonymous said...

It's common sense. When you provide good coverage of your goaltender, the shots that do get through are more likely to be hurried, at a distance, at bad angles, or very peripheral (i.e. the perimeter). I think Osgood the past two playoff seasons is a testimony to that (granted, he has been very good and hasn't gotten enough credit, but I doubt he would put up close to .930 two years in a row with average D).

Jonathan said...

Good defense also blocks a lot of shots, which likely means fewer perimeter shots and fewer point shot. Common sense tells me that the team has a very small impact on sv%.

I'm not saying that defense doesn't affect sv% at all. But GAA, SO, and wins are all team stats. sv% may also be a team stat, but not nearly as much so.

You can't just say that so-and-so has good sv% numbers because he has good defense and leave it at that. There's other factors--why are the good at defense? Do they dominate the front of the net physically? Do they stay out of the penalty box? Do they allow their opponent to take perimeter shots and just focus on avoid the big opportunities? Or do they block a lot of points shots? Does the goalie get bored or lose his focus after a certain period of time?