Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Why You Shouldn't Bet on Mathieu Garon

Luck is part of goaltending, and every season there are a few goalies that catch lightning in a bottle and end up having career years that are far out of line of their previous results. This presents the analytical problem of determining whether it was a result of random chance or evidence of a change in ability - e.g. is it a breakout performance or a small sample size fluke?

One goalie who had an interesting season last year was Mathieu Garon. Garon wasn't one of the very top goalies in the league, but his numbers were pretty solid on a non-playoff team, he outplayed veteran Dwayne Roloson, and he grabbed attention by dominating in the shootout. Can Edmonton expect more of the same in 2008-09?

Hockey Numbers posts a save percentage breakdown by difficulty of scoring chances that gives some insight into whether a goalie is lucky or not. Garon ranked 9th in save percentage on easy chances by stopping 98% of them (97% is average) and 6th in save percentage against difficult chances with 72% (average is about 68%). However, he ranked just 30th in save percentage against medium chances (.889, below the league average of .897), the chances that make up the majority of a goalie's workload and are the most representative of his skill level.

So that tends to suggest that Garon got lucky by avoiding bad goals and made possibly more than his share of big saves. Some of the most difficult shots a goalie faces is on the power play, so the next place we need to look at is his situational numbers:

2007-08: .922 at ES, .919 on the PK, .913 on the PP

That .919 leaps off the page as unsustainable. Garon's career averages before last year were .920 at even-strength and .840 on the PK, which makes it look even more out of whack. Garon was actually below average in even-strength save percentage in 2007-08. However, his penalty kill contribution was worth about 10 extra goals compared to league average. If Garon had stopped PK shots at his previous career rate his save percentage would have been at just .897 overall last season.

One place Garon may continue to provide high value is in shootouts. He was a ridiculous 30 out of 32 last season, which is unlikely to be repeated, but he did well in the previous two seasons, stopping a combined 20 out of 26 shots in 2005-06 and 2006-07. Garon will probably come back to earth somewhat, but he appears to be a strong shootout goalie and gives Edmonton a good chance of taking home some extra bonus points this season.

Overall, though, unless we see a Huet-type career trajectory of becoming a very good goalie late in his career, I think Garon was just playing over his head last season. Since Garon was traded for Huet, we can compare them in a couple of different team situations, and the stats suggest that Garon is no Huet.

Montreal: Garon, 2003-04: 2.27, .921; Huet, 2005-06: 2.20, .929
Los Angeles: Huet, 2003-04: 2.43, .907; Garon, 2005-06: 3.22, .894

An improved Edmonton team could mitigate some of the expected fall in Garon's numbers, but I'd expect Garon to drop to about the .905 range in 2008-09.


Bruce said...

2007-08: .922 at ES, .919 on the PK, .913 on the PP

... and .938 on the shootout. A limited sample of course (32 shots) but to exceed Hasek's single-season Sv% record in one-on-one showdowns against the opposition's best snipers is almost unthinkable. Assuming a reasonable minimum number of shots, that's a record that's apt to stand for a long time.

Thanks for the heads-up on Garon's PK proficiency, CG. That's certainly something to keep an eye on.

Garon had a very difficult first year in L.A. (2005-06, which was the Year of the Powerplay when scoring went way up all around the league) but otherwise he has maintained some pretty impressive Sv% numbers.

2000-01, 31 GP, .920
2001-02, 50 GP, .918
2002-03, 20 GP, .937
2004-05, 52 GP, .927

2002-03, 8 GP, .940
2003-04, 19 GP, .921

... and after the tough post-lockout year in which he played by far a career-high 63 GP, bounced back with respectable numbers of .907 and .913 on porous defensive clubs the past two years.

That track record suggests the guy is a stopper. We Oiler fans are counting on it. :)

Bruce said...
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Bruce said...
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Bruce said...

Btw, I just took a closer look and NHL.com's stats don't come close to adding up. Garon officially allowed 118 GA on 1359 shots, for .913. But here are his situational stats:

EV: 1134 SA, 88 GA, .922
PP: 284 SA, 23 GA, .919
SH: 58 SA, 6 GA, .897
Tot: 1476 SA, 117 GA, .921

There is a difference of 1 GA which is obviously an oversight. More significantly the shots against totals are inflated by 117 -- EXACTLY the same as GA. Somehow the shots that beat him were counted twice, once as a goal and once as a saved shot.

I double checked two other goalies, Brodeur and Hasek, and it's the same thing; officially MB allowed 168 GA on 2089 shots, but his situational shots add up to 2257, which = 2089 + 168. And Hasek allowed 84 GA on 855 shots, but his situationals add up to 939, which of course is 855 + 84. So all situational Sv% are badly inflated.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

Interesting. I noticed a few of the numbers didn't quite add up, but that looks like a systematic error. If they are double-counting, however, then it is an easy adjustment to make.

So Garon's numbers should be: .916 / .911 / .885. The overall point doesn't really change much.

I double-checked with Behind the Net, which has Garon facing 43.0 SA/60 at 4 on 5 and allowing 3.83 GA/60, for a save percentage of .911. So that matches up.

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