Tuesday, May 1, 2007

The Disciplined Devils

The New Jersey Devils are the best team in the league at not taking penalties. For the last 5 years in a row, the New Jersey Devils have led the NHL in fewest times shorthanded. They have averaged just 283 times shorthanded per season (3.5 per game), which is nearly 10% better than the second place finishers over that same time period. Given that the average even-strength shot had about an 8% chance of going in this year, while the average power play shot was likely to be a goal 13% of the time (and 19% of the time with a two-man advantage), facing fewer power plays is clearly a big advantage to the goalies on disciplined teams.

Martin Brodeur ranked 1st among all NHL starters this season in terms of the lowest percentage of shots faced on the power play. Just 15.8% of his shots came with a man disadvantage. Some other goalies had it a lot tougher, such as for example Roberto Luongo, Cristobal Huet, and Olaf Kolzig, all of whom faced over 25% of their shots on the penalty kill.

Using each goalie's shots faced on special teams and at even strength, I calculated their expected save percentages based on the league average for starting goalies at each game situation. Brodeur ranked first with an expected save percentage of .911, compared to a league average of .908. Luongo, Huet, and Kolzig all were expected to finish around .906. Brodeur's save percentage should therefore be about .005 better than Luongo's, simply because of his special teams advantage. It was virtually the same, which indicates which goalie has had a better year.

New Jersey's penalty kill has not only been infrequent, it has been very good. In each of the last 5 years, they have ranked among the top 6 teams in the league in terms of fewest power play goals against. This has a lot to do with them not taking penalties, but they also ranked top 6 in terms of efficiency in three of those years, including this one. Could it be that Brodeur is an excellent penalty killer who just never gets a chance to shine?

Evidence suggests no. This year he was very good, with a .904 shorthanded save percentage, 5th in the league among starting goalies. The previous four years, however, his best rank was 12th and his save percentages ranged from .849 to .878. In 2002-03, Brodeur's Vezina and Stanley Cup winning season, he stopped just 86.6% of power play shots against, for 18th best among starters. Nevertheless, the Devils ranked 1st in the league in efficiency, and led the league with just 32 power play goals against all season, indicating they did an excellent job in front of their goalie. New Jersey's success on the penalty kill is primarily a function of their discipline and defensive play up front, more so than the performance of the goaltender.


Anonymous said...

i love how you forget to mention that nj was ranked about 26th in goals scored too, kinda puts a large weight on the goaltender to excel, oh yeah who has been the backbone of this team since 93-94, remember if we never had him, we would not have won the three cups that we did, is this some disgruntled flyers fan that is sour how much his team absolutely sucks???

Anonymous said...

No, I doubt he's a Flyer's fan although he did post something about Parent's win record bein' way more impressive than Brodeur. His favorite goalies to use in his defense are the flopping fish Hasek, who I think is a great goalie, and Roy, who everyone practically says is the greatest ever, I think he was the greatest butterfly goalie ever and 2nd all-time. It's impossible to watch every single game of every single team, that's why I don't like his use of stats. I've seen all goalies let in soft goals, and all goalies make tremendous saves. Marty seems to be the most consistent of any goalie I've watched, especially the newer age of goaltenders. Most power play goals, or just any goal for that matter, scored on Marty are screened shots or deflections which ALL goalies have trouble with. Currently, even with all newer defensemen in front of him with the exception of White, he's still been consistent in net, he's made highlight save after highlight save... he's kept his team in games they had no reason bein' in.. and he snatched up another 40 win season.. imagine that. But I'm sure it's all because of the team's play... doubt that.. they were losing in the beginning of the season because he definitely had a bad start, he got hot and hasn't looked back.. and they are currently #1 in the East. But, that's all luck right? That's all his teams play, not his right?

Anonymous said...


He never won the Conn Smythe...actually, Giguere won it in the cup-series they lost to the Devils!!

Yeah...re-read the proofs Devil fans. You have a team of above average players tied together by Lou's vision and control of his team. THAT is what ties it all together for the Devils...Lou Lamorillo.