Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Why Lundqvist Should Win the Vezina

Even Strength Save Percentage in 2011-12 by Division:

1. Northwest, .925
2. Pacific, .925
3. Central, .923
4. Northeast, .919
5. Southeast, .917
6. Atlantic, .916

Quick and Lundqvist ended up with almost identical situational save percentage stats (both .933 at even strength, with Quick just slightly ahead on the penalty kill .908 to .905). The Kings faced a higher percentage of shots against on the PK, which caused Lundqvist to slightly edge out Quick in terms of overall save percentage by the narrow margin of .001. The closeness of those results, combined with Quick's extra workload and the Kings' late-season playoff charge, has made Quick a recent trendy Vezina pick, an impressive comeback given that it looked like Lundqvist had the award sewn up by the All-Star break.

Assuming both goalies were competing in the same environment, it would indeed be very difficult to separate them by the numbers. However, if each goalie's numbers are adjusted relative to their individual conferences, then Lundqvist opens up a decisive edge over Quick:

Conference-adjusted situational save percentages:

Quick: .930 EV, .907 PK, .941 PP
Lundqvist: .936 EV, .906 PK, .974 PP

Multiplying those out by the league-wide average frequency of shots against in each situation, Lundqvist ends up with a conference and situationally adjusted save percentage of .932 compared to .927 for Quick.

Another option would be to adjust each goalie's numbers relative to their division, although in that case the much smaller samples means it would be important to remove each goalie's results from the overall numbers (i.e. the Pacific without Quick and the Atlantic minus Lundqvist). That calculation only increases the margin in favour of Lundqvist, given that his .933 looks much more impressive when stacked up against the combined .912 put up by the rest of the Atlantic division, with the other netminders in the Pacific still combining for an above-average .924 mark even without the contributions of that division's Vezina candidate. Using the divisional numbers and the same correction for shots against by situation, Lundqvist's adjusted number moves well ahead of Quick .935 to .927.

To me, anything close to a tie suggests Lundqvist should win because his elite track record means that it is much less likely that his terrific season was based on luck or other secondary factors. I would pick Lundqvist even assuming that both goalies faced identical shots against for this reason alone. Adjusting for the east/west disparity only makes the choice that much more obvious, in my opinion.

Relying on historical records to evaluate a single season of goaltending is somewhat unfair to the goalie who is four years younger, but it is simply the reality of dealing with uncertainty in goalie evaluation (and why I don't think single-season awards are all that significant). This was Lundqvist's third season in a row at .920 or better while Quick's previous career best was .918. Future years may well prove that Quick's true talent is in the mid- to upper-.920s, but as of right now that's probably not the smart way to bet.

Another relevant piece of statistical info is that Quick's numbers were much better at home (.936 at home compared to .922 on the road), whereas Lundqvist's numbers were higher away from home (.934) than at MSG (.926). That doesn't necessarily mean much, variance is naturally going to be higher over 900 shot samples than over full-season results, but since road numbers are counted by a variety of different scorers they are less likely to be subject to bias. It is also worth noting because both goalies have been pretty consistent on the road over the last three seasons, with Lundqvist maintaining a steady .011-.013 gap over Quick:

Quick: .915, .916, .922
Lundqvist: .926, .929, .934

This year Quick's home numbers shot up while Lundqvist's improved slightly. Again that could be reflective of improved play for both goalies, but it could also be partially related to shot counting or team factors. The other interesting thing to note is that this is the third straight year that Lundqvist's save numbers have been better on the road. MSG is known for poor stat recording in general and it is possible that his numbers are being at least partially suppressed at home, especially given that Lundqvist faced an average of 5.6 more shots against per 60 minutes on the road compared to at home in 2011-12, coming on the heels of a 6.0 difference in 2010-11.

On the other hand, Quick's shots against rates were 26.5 at home compared to 28.0 on the road in 2011-12. His shots against rate at home has actually increased in each of the last three seasons, at the same time as his road shots against rate has been continually decreasing. That's not the typical statistical profile of a goalie being disadvantaged by his home scorekeeper. Overall, the home/road numbers are just one more reason to be a bit more confident in the Swede than in the American.

Taking their histories into account along with the conference disparity, I think Henrik Lundqvist deserves to win his first best goalie award. It could be argued that the shot quality allowed by the Rangers was not typical of the rest of the Atlantic Division, or that goaltending in the Western Conference in general or the Pacific Division specifically was simply a whole lot better than it was out East, either of which would mean that the adjustments above are unfair to Quick. I would certainly listen to anybody willing to make those arguments, but right now I don't see enough supporting evidence on the table. Shot quality arguments are always particularly murky because of the lack of good data, and subjective comparisons are very difficult, particularly for two teams in opposing conferences.

As an aside, this season has made me wonder at times whether we can continue to rely on the general assumption that EV shot quality is relatively constant between teams. The two major pieces of evidence in that direction are probably St. Louis' 2011-12 goalie stats and the conference splits displayed above. In the aggregate I think 5 on 5 shot quality is still probably not all that important for most of the league, but if there are some significant effects on the margins that would be important to know for goalie evaluation.


Unknown said...

Great post. Glad to hear yr coming around on shot quality.

The first thing we ought to do in any goalie evaluation is
account for strength of team defense. Obviously, it is not right to reward a goalie for the performance of his team D.

Assumption: teams can have significantly different quality of defense and this impacts on difficulty of goalie's job.

We know this is true..many examples...many ways to prove this..

Shots against and shots missed against, over a long season, do a good job of indicating team defence.

It is foundational in Hockey strategy.At theextreme we have seen what teams like NJ and Detroit can do by limiting shots and shots Attempts. we know that this skill reduces the quality of the goalie performance i.e. Osgood
great stats in playoffs yet .909 even strength sve% since lockout way below all other reg. goalies?

so, if it exists in the extreme, we can see it better, then it exists in smaller differences
and must be taken into account.

Its not close Mike Smith has played behind a far inferior
defence. Yet posted almost equal sve% and pk save %.

His team has 27st Shots against
and shots against Close

Nyr, Stl. La all are in top 6 of SA

It is a huge gap.
This shot difference far outweighs
any other adjustments you make.
We would expect that Mike Smith would display sig. lower sve% but the doesn't
we need to explain why?
1. He played better
2. His team allowed more shots but were able to control their quailty but no there quantity?
for me not likely!

Also, his teams Pos. Fenwick close against is near the bottom, 42/60
All othe rgoalies are around 36/60

We know that Fenwick advantage leads to more scoring chances leads to more potential goals,
Therefore, Smith we can make the guess he has faced better quality chances.

Also, Possession stats can be used to highlight the "pressure" a goalie faces Obviously, it is more stressful for a goalie to face a team that has the puck more , and has more chances, it takes more mental skill to do this.
Also, track record should no tbe held against a goalie.
That's just an admission that you don't have an accurate measure of assessing the years winner.
Yes, luck is part of it, it is in all sports performance.
A one season wonder still deserves the award IF he was the best for that year..This year it is not close Mike Smith is that goalie.

First, the NNl awards are a sham.
They don't seem to care about integrity. How Roberto Luongo has not won a Vezina is ridiculous. he is the best goalie of his generation.(even strength sve%, consistency, longevity etc)and has not won a Vezina?
He has never had a top notch defender ever? Like Chara, Weber, Stevens, Lidstrom Pronger,etc.A fact that is never brought up.
How he didn't win in 2007-08 is crazy. I live in Vancouver and his performance that year was in the top 5 of any goalie.

Great Blog..>!


Unknown said...

sorry not sure why my post lost format? I stayed in box provided?

overpass said...

I think the events of this season have dealt a real blow to the assumption that EV shot quality doesn't differ at the NHL level.

Watching the NYR-Ottawa series, the Rangers are reaaly collapsing in their own end. Once Ottawa gains possession in the zone and throws it back to the point, NYR are not pressuring the shooter, but are entirely focused on 1. blocking the shot, 2. getting body position and tying up sticks of opposing forwards. They are focused on minimizing the quality of shots directed at net more than the quantity.

Another observation - Ottawa is much more aggressive in having their defencemen pinch up to join the attack or just to hold the puck in at EV. Their forwards cover back well, but it's still a little riskier to have a forward back. I would expect that factor factor balances an offensive edge against a slight loss in shot quality.

Lundqvist is awesome, but the Rangers play a style that helps him succeed.

Eric Morey said...

How does your opinion that Lundqvist should win the Vezina compare to your opinion as expressed in you blog's title (Brodeur is a fraud)? It seems Lundqvist is certainly benefiting from the Ranger's defensive play, more so than Quick or Smith.

Anonymous said...

The fact the the NJ Devils have finally figured out how to produce quality shots on goal against the NY Rangers defense, and scored 4 goals against Lundqvist on only 16 shots in game 5 of the series this year has perfectly shown that Lundqvist isn't as good as you or anyone else thinks. The only two goalies that should be in contention for the Vezina are Smith or Quick. Simple as that. Lundqvist is more of a fraud than Brodeur.

Hostpph said...

I also thought about that, and I have to say that Lundqvist deserved to win the Vezina, they played so well

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