Friday, March 16, 2012

The Curse of Obama

In the 20 games since the Boston Bruins' White House visit that Tim Thomas famously did not attend, the defending Vezina Trophy winner has gone 9-9-0 with a very uncharacteristic 3.07 GAA and .890 save percentage.

That .890 would look ugly for pretty much any goalie in today's NHL, but it looks especially glaring for Thomas considering his excellence over the past three seasons. Going back to the start of 2008-09, Thomas' numbers have been consistently elite even when divided up into the relatively small sample size of 20 games (playoffs included):

Nov '11-Jan '12: .935
May '11-Nov '11: .943
Mar '11-May '11: .929
Jan '11-Mar '11: .931
Nov '11-Jan '11: .939
Mar '10-Nov '11: .941
Dec '09-Mar '10: .911
May '09-Dec '09: .921
Feb '09-May '09: .936
Dec '08-Feb '09: .930
Oct '08-Dec '08: .937

The .911 and .921 came in the latter half of 2009-10 when Thomas was limited by a hip injury. If that is enough to excuse those two results, it has been over three calendar years since a healthy Thomas had to endure a 20 game stretch below .929. And then he decided to skip a team event for personal reasons and everything fell apart.

Obviously I don't actually think the flap surrounding Thomas and President Obama made any significant impact on his play, but there is no question that regression has hit the Bruins hard in net in 2012. Not only have Thomas' numbers nosedived, but Tuukka Rask is 0-3-1, 3.07, .886 since the All-Star break. The .940 team save percentage that the team was rocking early in the year was never going to hold up, but I didn't expect the wheels to come off this heavily either.

At 37, Thomas is in the age range where performance levels can change pretty suddenly, and he has had a lot of recent mileage considering his workload this year combined his playoff run last season. Thomas is already in the top-10 all-time this year for games played by a 37-year old, and including playoffs only one goalie has ever played more games in his age 36 season than Thomas' 82 last year. That doesn't necessarily mean that an awful 20 game stretch is a sign of impending doom, but it's certainly something to keep an eye on. Thomas' recent form has to be at least somewhat concerning for Bruins fans with the playoffs just around the corner, given that elite goaltending has been a big part of the team's success over the past two seasons.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the possible psychological impact of the political brouhaha.

Anonymous said...

I think Marty had a pretty good year at age 37... 77 GP 45 wins, 2.24 GAA, .916 Sv %. That was back in 2010 and was higher that year than 35 year old Thomas and 30 year old Luongo.

Cherry picking some hot streak small sample size of a single player's stats and drawing conclusions about politics or the players age curve is somewhat foolish. Variance is a certainty in NHL goalie and a player like Thomas is no exception just because he had an amazing streak. He averages around 55 GP a year and joined the NHL late so when he retires he will be lucky if he can get over 300 wins and maintain his .921 save percentage.- That is just the reality of averages.

I am not saying age is not tied to save percentage - I think your article that talked about Brodeur, Hasek and Roy's save percentage was reasonable, and even more verified now by Marty's .905 this year - but a stretch of games tied to age or a political event is not statistically significant. And in the end all these stats and trophies are just a factor of team strength and style of play, and eras right?

P.S. I can't wait for you to write about Lundquist as he is the new save percentage champ. Just don't forget to give props to Rinne.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

Cherry picking some hot streak small sample size of a single player's stats and drawing conclusions about politics or the players age curve is somewhat foolish.

I agree, which is why I didn't do that. I said it is something to keep an eye on. It's a pretty safe bet that Thomas will decline as he continues to age, but we have no way of knowing exactly what that curve will look like over the next couple of years, whether he will suddenly fall off a cliff or hit a gradual decline.

Variance is a certainty in NHL goalie and a player like Thomas is no exception just because he had an amazing streak.

Of course, but an .040 drop goes well beyond the expected variance based on his past performance. Assuming his true talent is .925, which is probably a conservative estimate based on his last few years, there is only about a 2% chance that he would end up at .890 over 500 SA through chance alone. One could argue that makes it statistically significant, although of course there are always other factors at play such as the fact that the Bruins haven't been very good lately and the team's other goalies have also been shelled at the same time.

Fred said...

"If that is enough to excuse those two results, it has been over three calendar years since a healthy Thomas had to endure a 20 game stretch below .929."

Strictly speaking, that is not true. It is only true for the 20 game stretches you chose. I am sure there is a 20 game stretch in there where his save percentage was below .929.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

Fred: You are correct, good catch. However, I think it is still fair to say that Thomas has been consistently excellent, given that between 2008-09 and the White House snub he hadn't had any single 20 game stretch below .920 other than during his injury-plagued 2009-10 season, which is an impressive record.

Hostpph said...

hmm I had not read about this curse of Obama in my entire life, but if you ask me, it is quite interesting!