Thursday, April 12, 2012

One of These Does Not Belong...

GoalieSv%MaxMinAvgPO Tms
M. Smith.930.974.851.926.936
J. Quick.929.963.881.927.930
J. Halak.926.963.856.931.937
P. Rinne.923.960.880.921.919
J. Howard.920.940.881.919.919
R. Luongo.919.949.869.920.930
A. Niemi.915.950.863.914.915
C. Crawford.903.931.867.901.896

Sv% is total save percentage, Max and Min are each goalie's best save percentage marks over seven consecutive games during the 2011-12 season, Avg is the goalie's average save percentage per 7 game stretch (naturally, this metric will track very closely with the overall save rate), and PO Tms is each goalie's combined save percentage against the other 7 Western Conference playoff teams.

The obvious takeaway is that there is some really good puckstoppers out West, with six teams possessing demonstrably above-average goaltending. That leaves just the San Jose Sharks with the very average Antti Niemi, and the Chicago Blackhawks, who look to be the one team in the Western Conference that is in a substantial amount of trouble in goal heading into the playoffs.

In a previous post, I pointed out that a typical Cup winning goaltender needs to put together a streak of approximately .930 over 600 shots. This season Crawford barely even managed to hit that during his best seven game stretch. His highest mark over 20 consecutive games was only .912. If the playoff version of Corey Crawford is the same one that showed up during the regular season, it is very unlikely that Chicago will get the percentages needed to overcome four straight difficult opponents and end up with a Stanley Cup. Chicago did manage to win the 2010 Cup despite Antti Niemi's mediocre .910 save percentage, but most observers would agree that version of the Hawks with multiple star players on ELCs was stacked compared to this year's roster.

That said, all hope is not lost for Blackhawks fans. Despite Crawford's mediocre play, Chicago still managed to go 13-10-3 against the other seven Western Conference playoff teams with him in net. That was still the second-worst record of any of the eight expected playoff starters (ahead of only Niemi), but it was not far behind most of the other teams as only Smith and Luongo managed to post a win percentage of .600 or better against that tough slate of opposition. Chicago has a very good team in front of Crawford, especially if captain Jonathan Toews is able to get back into the lineup and contribute at his usual level. In score-close Fenwick, one of the best measures of overall team strength, Chicago ranked 5th in the league.

The other thing to keep in mind is that Crawford acquitted himself quite well in the first round against Vancouver last year and had a much better overall season in 2010-11. Perhaps Crawford's true ability is closer to the .918 he managed in the 2010-11 regular season and playoffs combined than this year's .903, which would make him far more likely to be able to deliver Cup-calibre goaltending over the next two months.

For what it is worth (probably not much), Crawford finished the season strong with a .921 and an 8-2-1 record over the last two months, including six wins over playoff teams, although Chicago's offensive output of 32 goals in the 11 games and stingy shot prevention of 23.5 SA/60 obviously also played a major role in that recent success.

The Western Conference playoffs are as usual going to be a grind filled with tight games where hot goaltending can make a difference. The Blackhawks have a strong team that could be a contender, except for the question mark related to the fact that their goaltending this season has been well behind the rest of the teams in the mix out West. It seems safe to say that the pressure is on firmly on the shoulders of Corey Crawford because Chicago will likely need much better goaltending than they have been given so far in 2011-12 to be able to put together another Cup run.


Anonymous said...

Sigh, poor Corey.

He acquitted himself well last night - just not as well as Smith.

Crawford had a pretty rough sophomore slump, that's been pretty well documented. In the ultimate sign of a goalie in panic mode (and a goalie coach - Stephan Waite - who may have been asleep at the will), Crawford was changing his positioning style several times during the season, being ultra aggressive, then Lundqvist-like on the goal line.

The stretch at the end may not be worth much after all, but he did look more like the goaltender he was in 2011-12, and I think that gave a lot of hope to those who watch him and the Hawks that his post-sophomore slump trajectory will be more like Howard and less like Steve Mason (the two guys who he's been most compared to as he's battled the slump).

Corey has earned the scorn of most of the pundits and analysts with his poor or inconsistent play at times this season, but I think Chicago players and fans actually have a good amount of confidence in him, and his performance last night will help, even though they lost.

Anonymous said...

The Hawks defense during the season also wasn't very good up until the last month or so, like what was mentioned in the artcile. They have the talent, they just have to play like it and stop making dumb mistakes. Though he's had some really bad games, can't say that the pressure is firmly all on Crawford. Their defense will be what determines their fate in the playoffs.

Anonymous said...

I notice you dont have any goalies here with what we could call the Archie Manning factor. A good goalie playing behind a subpar defense looking like a bad goalie, that should be much better than statistics would allow.

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