Sabres By the Numbers: Halloween Edition
Whether handing out candy at home, trick-or-treating, or turning off the porch light and pretending to be asleep (don’t be that guy), Sabres fans will want to keep one eye on tonight’s game against the Detroit Red Wings. It’s been a quality start for Don Granato’s squad, so let’s take a look at some of the numbers behind their 5-3-0 record so far in October.
Feast-or-Famine Shooting Percentages:
One of the first things that pops off the page when looking at the basic stats on Sabres.com is the wild discrepancy in shooting percentage between the guys who are putting the puck in the net and the ones who aren’t.
Alex Tuch – 26.1% (6 goals)
Victor Olofsson – 23.1% (6 goals)
Zemgus Girgensons – 18.2% (2 goals)
Rasmus Dahlin – 17.9% (5 goals)
JJ Peterka – 15.4% (2 goals)
At the other end of the spectrum there are 12 players without a goal, and several more who are shooting well below what we might expect:
Tage Thompson – 10% (3 goals)
Casey Mittelstadt – 6.7% (2 goals)
Jeff Skinner – 5% (1 goal)
All three of those players are shooting below their historic averages. Thompson shot at 15% last year, and while that’s unlikely to repeat – although it certainly could – he’ll likely finish the season closer to 12.5% at least. Skinner and Mittelstadt are both nearly 11% shooters over the course of their careers so they will likely pick back up. The Sabres as a team are currently 13th overall in the league in terms of goals scored with 29, and they’re 6th in the league in goals against with 22 allowed so far. That last stat brings us to goaltending:
Solid in Net:
Craig Anderson is currently 3rd in the league in save percentage with a .946, while Eric Comrie has a respectable .909 sv% in 5 games.
Below are some additional advanced stats courtesy of evolving hockey:
Wins Above Replacement: 0.3
Goals Above Replacement: 1.8
Goals Against: 17.21
Expected Goals Against: 18.25
Goals Saved Above Expected: 1.04
Those numbers are very dry but they’re worth posting because it gives an indication of where Comrie’s season could be heading. Prior to the start of the season, the thought was that if the Sabres can get approximately .910 save percentage goaltending from Comrie over the course of, say, 45 games, then the team would likely be in position to play some #MeaningfulGamesInMarch. The above numbers indicate that Comrie is playing at a good level, but not lights out, and that’s important because if we were seeing a goals-saved-above-expected number that was stupid high, well then regression would appear inevitable. The 2-3-0 record is not ideal, but the wins will follow if he maintains this save percentage pace.
It's also worth keeping in mind that this is not 2014-15 in the NHL as we’ve witnessed the league-average save percentage plummet in recent years. This year is set to be the third-lowest save percentage year since 2001. The only two years that featured lower save percentages than this season were the post-lockout seasons of ’05-’06 and ’06-’07 when the league called a ton of obstruction penalties which increased scoring and decreased save percentage. Here’s the league-average save percentage.
Using the word “plummet” in regards to the data above is probably a touch dramatic when you realize that we’re talking about nine-tenths of one percent over the course of 7 years, but it’s relevant nonetheless when we’re comparing Comrie to the rest of the league. He’s above that threshold, it looks sustainable and indications are that he will play at slightly above league-average level. Good news.
I’m not going to get too deep in the weeds on Anderson’s numbers because the sample size is smaller and the results have been – overall – so hilariously good. His GAR is 4.4, his GSAx is 4.28 and his Fenwick save percentage is 3.5% higher than expected. These numbers actually took a hit in the Chicago game and they still look stellar. Make no mistake, though, regression is going to continue, and with it, the save percentage will fall.
Or the numbers won’t regress and Anderson will win the Vezina, the Masterton and the Hart.
Couple Quick thoughts on the game tonight based on the practice lines, courtesy of Lance Lysowski:
First thing’s first, that group of defensemen is in shambles right now with Henri Jokiharju, Mattias Samuelsson and now Ilya Lyubushkin all on the shelf due to injuries. The forward lines and Eric Comrie are going to have to carry this team on their back until they start getting some more defensemen back.
Kyle Okposo to the first line generated a nice spark for the team against Chicago on Saturday and it appears that Don Granato is going to keep that going with Alex Tuch joining Peterka and Cozens. That will be an incredibly heavy line, and Tuch’s presence will hopefully open up some room for Peterka and Cozens to shoots, because as we saw in the shooting percentage stats, they’re really not getting enough pucks on the net right now. With Tuch digging pucks out for them, we could see the offensive floodgates really open up for the two youngsters.
Happy Halloween, everybody.