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The stats in this article have been pulled from Rob Vollman's 2014 edition of Hockey Abstract. You can find and purchase his great book here.
The goaltending position is one of great importance in the NHL. It is not unlike the quarterback position in football. Play great and your team has a good chance of winning, play poorly and just the opposite is true.
The NHL goaltending position is also one that is tough to figure out. For years stats such as wins and goals against average have been used to value a goalie's worth. These stats are now widely accepted as reflecting more on the team's ability rather than on the individual goaltender.
That leaves us with our trusty old friend, save percentage. However, even parts of save percentage have been shown to have flaws. Studies have shown that goaltenders save percentage on the penalty kill is wildly erratic and can change drastically from year to year. Given that there is no rhyme or reason to shorthanded save percentage it has given way to even strength save percentage as being the accepted barometer of a goaltender's play.
In Rob Vollman's 2014 edition of Hockey Abstract he takes things a step further. He has introduced something called the home plate save percentage. Rob describes this new metric as the following:
It's named after a region in front of a goalie that's shaped like a home plate in baseball. If you draw lines from the goal posts to the two defensive zone faceoff dots, and then straight up to the top of the faceoff circles, a straight line connecting them both will create a zone where the most dangerous shots generally occur.
This stat attempts to measure a goaltender's ability while facing higher quality shots.
Keep in mind this isn't meant to be a standalone stat which paints the entire picture about a goaltender. This stat is meant to illuminate a very specific part of a goaltender's job (stopping the more difficult shots).
Today I am going to focus on goaltenders in the Metropolitan Division while using Rob Vollman's new home plate save percentage metric.
In the chart below you are going to see two sets of data. On the left hand side is the data from shots taken outside of the home plate area. On the right side you will see the data from shots taken from inside of the home plate area. In between both sets of data you will see HP%. That stat indicates the percentage of shots a goalie faced from inside the home plate area.
Some numbers to think about before viewing the chart:
The sample size of this data is 2011-14, basically the past three seasons.
The rankings on the chart below are out of 64 goaltenders.
The average HP% is 44.0%
The average home plate save percentage is .855%
The average save percentage from outside of the home plate area is .958%.
With all of that said here are the numbers for the Metropolitan Division:
OK so what can we learn from this information?
First things first I can't really say it is a surprise to see Henrik Lundqvist at the top, he is considered by many to be the best goaltender in the world right now. Despite seeing an above average amount of home plate shots against he was able to do best amongst all goaltenders in the NHL.
What may come as a surprise is the #2 man on the list. Penguins new goaltender Thomas Greiss has done a tremendous job in dealing with home plate shot opportunities. However, it bares mentioning that his sample size is much smaller when compared to most other goalies on this chart. From a Penguins perspective it is great to see him do so well with difficult shots, but the sample size prevents the ability from drawing a strong conclusion yet. His very small sample size may also explain why he has the lowest save percentage from outside of the home plate area. If I was a betting man I would predict that his save percentage on the outside shots will go up while his home plate save percentage will start to drop as his shot totals continue to rise.
Cory Schneider has been one of the better goaltenders in hockey the past few years and when you see just how good his numbers are it really makes you wonder why Martin Brodeur stole so much time from him last year. This decision cost the Devils a playoff berth.
Going into next season I believe the Islanders have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs. One of the driving forces for my belief is their improved goaltending. Jaroslav Halak ranks very favorably in home plate save percentage and that is a huge plus considering that the Islanders defense corp. could be considered their weakness.
Braden Holtby continues to quietly, yet efficiently, go about his business. The Capitals traded for Halak last year but perhaps their focus should have been in other areas.
Anton Khudobin is another guy with good numbers, but like Greiss, has a smaller sample size. If I'm Carolina I am looking to find out if Khudobin can continue to post quality numbers. Cam Ward is way down on this chart and is a known commodity. Ward is below average in both save percentage categories, Khudobin is above average in both. The Hurricanes should be looking to part ways with Ward and his inflated cap hit. If they can't find any takers then the proper course of action would be to move forward with a very expensive backup goalie. Khudobin has earned the right to take a team over as the number one guy.
Sergei Bobrovsky has solid numbers and will continue to provide Columbus with quality goaltending.
Ray Emery has seen the highest percentage of shots from the home plate area amongst goaltenders on this chart. He is exactly at the league average with a home plate save percentage of .855%. His counterpart Steve Mason is not very good in this area. Mason was only better than eight other goalies, he ranks 56th out of 64.
While Greiss ranks favorably when facing tougher shots, Marc-Andre Fleury does not. He ranks 42nd out of 64. Some people believe that Fleury's athleticism is what gives him an advantage over other goaltenders when trying to make the tough saves, the numbers don't show this to be true. In fact the exact opposite is true. Fleury has the highest save percentage on this chart from shots taken outside of the home plate area. Strange but true. Another popular theory is that the Penguins leave Fleury out to dry more often than other goalies. His HP% of 45.2% is indeed above the league average of 44.0%, but not by much, at least not enough to make strong claims that his role is unusual compared to other goalies.
One conclusion that we can draw from this information is that the Metropolitan Division has a decent number of goaltenders who are way above average when saving pucks from the home plate area.
Home plate save percentage is just another part of the larger picture, but it is one we didn't have the luxury of looking at just a short while ago. I think this stat is intriguing and one that certainly helps with trying to figure out the puzzle that is goaltending.
Thanks for reading!
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