Goaltending. Goaltending. Goaltending.

In Real Estate they say the value of a property is all about location, location and location. In hockey I believe success is all about goaltending, goaltending and goaltending. I recently wrote an article about young franchise players and I ranked Henrik Lundqvist and Roberto Luongo at the top of the list ahead of players like Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza, Dion Phaneuf, etc. In the comments to that post several people argued against me putting two goalies at the top of the list saying that goalies aren’t that valuable. The following is some evidence to show otherwise.

Last year 15 of the top 16 teams in team save % made the playoffs while only one team not in the top 16 (Tampa) did.

Of the past 12 Stanley Cup winning goalies, not one had a save percentage under .920 in the playoffs in their cup winning season as shown in the table below with cup winning goalies and their playoff and regular season save percentages.

Year Playoffs Reg. Goalie
2006-07 .922 .918 Jean-Sebastien Giguere
2005-06 .920 .882 Cam Ward (was the backup in regular season)
2003-04 .933 .910 Nikolai Khabibulin
2002-03 .934 .914 Martin Brodeur
2001-02 .920 .915 Dominik Hasek
2000-01 .934 .913 Patrick Roy
1999-00 .927 .910 Martin Brodeur
1998-09 .935 .915 Ed Belfour
1997-08 .925 .913 Chris Osgood
1996-07 .932 .899 Mike Vernon (only played 33 games in reg. season)
1997-06 .921 .908 Patrick Roy
1994-05 .932 .902 Martin Brodeur (strike shortened season)

Based on that evidence teams should be aiming to obtain a goalie capable of posting save percentages of .910 and above over the duration of the regular season but also capable of picking up their save percentages to the .920-.935 range over the course of a playoff run. If you don’t have that kind of goalie, can you really be considered serious cup contenders? Based on the list above, probably not.

The Columbus Blue Jackets entered this season with essentially the same team that finished the past two seasons 33-42-7 and 35-43-4. But because of some top tier goaltending by young Pascal Leclaire the Blue Jackets are a very solid 11-8-4 to start this season. That is with a defence of Ron Hainsey, Rostislav Klesla, Adam Foote, Kris Russell, Jan Hejda, Duvie Wescott and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen. At best half those guys are journeyman NHLers. Hainsey was a waiver pickup. Hejda is a 29 year old with 39 games NHL experience (with the lowsy 2006-07 Oilers) prior to this season. Duvie Wescott is a 30 year old with 5 years experience but only a single season with more than 40 games played. Russell is a rookie drafted in the third round of the 2005 draft. That isn’t exactly a top tier defines so I won’t buy the ‘but Columbus has a great defence and that is why Leclaire looks so good’ argument. The Boston Bruins, who are now getting good goaltending from Tim Thomas, have gone from being well out of the playoffs to somewhat comfortable in the playoffs despite having more or less the same team but without the services of talented Patrice Bergeron for more than half their games so far. A similar story can be written about DiPietro and the Islanders. On paper the Islanders forwards and defence crew are quite average but DiPietro keeps them in a lot of games and have allowed them to stay in a playoff position.

On the flip side take a look at the Pittsburgh Penguins. No one can argue that they aren’t an extremely talented team up front and on defence but when they don’t get the goaltending they are quite mediocre. Dany Sabourin has a fairly decent .911 save % this season and is an equally fairly decent 4-3-1. Marc-Andre Fleury has a fairly weak .898 save% and is an equally weak 6-8-1. From October-December of last season Fleury had a .900 save % and a 15-11-4 record. From January to April of last season Fleury had a .911 save % which resulted in a fabulous 25-5-5 record.

Even a team as good as Ottawa struggles when they don’t get top tier goaltending as they are 3-4-1 in their last 7 games during which they posted a decent, but not great, .902 save %. Prior to that stretch the Senators had a spectacular .938 save % which converted into a even more spectacular 13-1-0 record. Any guesses on what the Senators record would be if they had the Leafs .886 save % for the whole season? Would they have a .500 record? Some fans will suggest that the team in front of the goalies has not played as well recently and while that may be partially true I would suggest the biggest reason for the Senators recent woes are the goaltenders not the forwards. I watch a lot of Sens games and I watched the Leafs generally out play the Senators in game 2 of the season but not out goaltend them. The Sens won that game 3-2 with Gerber stopping 41 of 43 shots. I watched Gerber shut out the Rangers the very next game stopping all 35 shots the Rangers directed his way. I watched (in person) a week later when Gerber stopped 36 of 37 shots to defeat the Rangers 3-1. All of these games could have easily gone the other way with just average goaltending just like the recent losses to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Buffalo did.

In an NHL where there are a ton of one goal games the difference between a .925 and a .895 save % is huge. That amounts to about a goal per game and if you are giving up an extra goal every game that will convert (in theory) all OT wins and OT losses into straight loses and convert a several wins into OT losses. On average last year teams lossed 9 games in OT and thus teams on average won 9 games in OT. If you take those 9 OT wins and convert them to regulation losses that would account for a difference of 18 points in the standings. In the eastern conference that could be the difference between finishing 2nd in the conference or finishing 11th like it would have last season. That;s the difference between being a very good team and a very mediocre one. That’s significant.

There are currently 9 teams with fewer points than games played (i.e. sub .500). Those teams are Florida, Atlanta, Tampa, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Washington, Calgary, Los Angeles and Edmonton. Those teams sit 12th, 26th, 28th, 17th, 22nd, 30th, 14th and 25th in the NHL in save percentage respectively. Not exactly teams with top goaltending.

And if you need one more piece of evidence take a look at the Phoenix Coyotes. They picked up a talented goalie in Ilya Bryzgalov and they have yet to lose a game.

In the NHL success is all about goaltending, goaltending and goaltending.

This article has 28 Comments

  1. I don’t necessarily disagree, except to say that Florida has had pretty solid goaltending from Vokoun (.911%, 2.85 GAA) that has often bordered on spectacular. Numbers fairly comparable to when he was with the Preds, who were an elite regular season team last year.

  2. Given this analysis, how much MORE idiotic does it make the JFJ deal to trade away Tuuka Rask in exchange for Andrew Raycroft, and the 3 draft picks for Toskala + Bell.

    Raycroft’s numbers actually seem to climb when he has more work, but he has a combined .889 save percentage over the past 3 years. Toskala has a combined .903 save percentage over the last 3 seasons.

    The Leafs had a chance to get Bryzgalov (who was put on WAIVERS) and he has a .912 save percentage over the past 3 seasons. Manny Legace was signed for close to nothing by St. Louis, he has a .912 save percentage over the past 3 years.

    Now, to be fair, Hasek has a .864 save percentage at this point, Kiprusoff has a .888 save percentage, Theodore has a .887, Mason has a .897, Fleury has a .898, and Khabibulin has a .900.

    Toskala has been in the net for 2 games where the leafs lost 7-1, and another 2 games they lost 5-1. In the other 13 games his save percentage is .916 which is frankly very solid. Basically the Leafs completely implode defensively every 5 games or so. But aside from that they play at a reasonable level. All-in-all I would argue that D has a lot to do with goaltending Save Percentage, especially in regards to how far out the shots are coming from, the angle from which they are taken, and how open the player taking the shot is. Also deflections and tips play into this sort of analysis.

    Perhaps this is a bit of an oversimplification? Superficially goaltending is the major factor, but I think a low save percentage is an indicator of more than just weak goaltending.

  3. If you look at the teams that play a consistent trap-style defensive system, their goaltenders tend to have inflated statistics. It would be interesting to analyse how a goalie’s numbers change when they play for different coaches/teams/systems.

    Jaques Martin’s goalies typically have high save percentages. As do most goalies that play for Dave Tippet in Dallas. Bary Trotz often gets high save percentages out of his goaltenders. Ken Hitchock often has had good goaltending stats from his netminders. All of these coaches instill firm systems of defensive play… I think that has a lot to do with it also.

  4. Given this analysis, how much MORE idiotic does it make the JFJ deal to trade away Tuuka Rask in exchange for Andrew Raycroft, and the 3 draft picks for Toskala + Bell.

    Both deals were definitely gambles though so are Rask and the draft picks. Both Raycroft and Toskala have shown the potential to be the kind of goalie you need, particularly Raycroft who as a rookie had a .926 save %. It didn’t work out but so far, neither has Rask. Rask’s .894 AHL save % is nothing spectacular and does nothing to indicate he is a future star goalie. He could be, but he is still a gamble. And the draft picks they sent for Toskala, well, they may work out but more likely than not they don’t develop into anything spectacular.

    I have all but given up on Raycroft developing into anything useful but Toskala still could. I wouldn’t give up on him yet.

    That said, JFJ has failed to get that top quality goalie. He failed to do what it took to get one of the best young goalies in the NHL when he was available: Luongo.

    Ken Hitchock often has had good goaltending stats from his netminders.

    Really? What were the Flyers goaltenders save percentages the last couple seasons?

  5. i don’t disagree. well ok, i kind of disagree because SV% is better if you face fewer shots and the number of shots you face is very much dependant on the system followed by the guys in front of the goalie.
    you use Pascal Leclaire as an example and this season he’s tied for 2nd in the league for SV% so far but last year the same goaltender in basically the same number of starts (a few more actually) than he’s had this year put up a SV% of .897. i think you’ll agree that this same goaltender was pretty bad at his job last season. the defense hasn’t really changed in front of him but in fact he does have a new system implemented by Hitch this year. they are definitely bringing the shots down in C-bus this season and Leclaire is reaping the rewards.
    does this make Pascal Leclaire a franchise player? i don’t argue that. just look at his stats prior to this year. he’s a decent tender who’s benefitting from a defensive system.
    again, i don’t disagree. i did make an observation that i think went unnoticed in the discussion about franchise players though. a goaltender never WINS a game, he only preserves the tie. i think your argument that great goaltending allows for a team to win is well made but i would skew the argument to say that great defensive play allows a goaltender to show how great he really is.
    few would say that Nikolai Khabibulin has shown himself to be the GREAT goaltender that allowed the Lightning to be a Stanley Cup winner. he’s shown that he’s really quite good but is he great? if he is the great Stanley Cup winner then why didn’t the Lightning go to great lengths to bring him back? why hasn’t the Blackhawks made a serious cup run?
    you make some valid points but i just know that if have the opportunity to draft Sidney Crosby or Henrik Lundqvist to head up my team i don’t hesitate to take the skater. now if the options are Lundqvist or Nik Antropov then i’m definitely taking Lundy but nobody in their right mind is calling Antropov a franchise player either.

  6. they are definitely bringing the shots down in C-bus this season and Leclaire is reaping the rewards.

    Last year they gave up 28.6 shots per game which is actually not half bad (ranked 10th best in the NHL). THis year they have given up 27.9 shots per game which is not all that different and certainly could be explained by a thousand different things other than different system.

    But let’s say that they are better defensively and not giving up more shots. Wouldn’t then we also see Norrena have improved stats? Last year he had a .904 save %, this year it is .907. That is not a significant improvement at all and certainly nothing like Leclaire’s.

    So with that in mind, is Leclaire’s better stats more likely due to the Blue Jackets playing a better defensive system or more likely do to a just turned 25 year old top goalie prospect (he was drafted 8th overall) coming into his own and becoming a top quality NHL goalie (remember, he had a .911 save % in his rookie season). I’d suggest the latter.

    As for Khabibulin he has proven he can be a great goalie, but he has also proven he can be a very mediocre one. During the course of his career he has been fairly streaky. During his Stanley Cup run in Tampa you saw what he is capable of over a 2 month stretch but there were times during the regular season that he almost lost his starting job to John Grahame.

    If given an opportunity I take Lundqvist over Crosby. We’ll have to disagree on that one.

  7. Really? What were the Flyers goaltenders save percentages the last couple seasons?

    When Esche played for Hitchcock in his first two seasons in Philly, he posted seasons with .907 and .915 save percentages. The next season, as the Flyers tuned Hitch out, Esche’s numbers dropped down to a .897 save percentage. When Hitch was canned in 06-07 after 8 games Esche had started a grand total of 2 games. His numbers weren’t the reason Hitchcock was fired.

    Last year Norrena played in 55 games for Columbus, Leclaire played in 24 games. The fact that Norrena has more experience, and his save percentage was .904, and this year is up to .907 implies that Hitchcock has had a positive effect on his numbers also.

    If you go back to Hitchcock’s impacts on Dallas, he had Belfour whom he rode to a Cup, and then he slowly brought in Turco who fit well into the Defensive System the Stars had molded.

    I don’t really see how the goaltending stats of Philly disprove my argument. If anything, one could argue that everytime Hitch made a shift in his goaltending he damaged the confidence of the goalie he was reducing the role of. Esche went from being the top starter for 2 seasons, to a 1A starter behind Nittymaki, who didn’t put up the numbers to match his success in the AHL. As soon as he was dropped a notch, Esche’s numbers went in the toilet. I honestly think coaching has more to do with these stats than you’re giving credit for.

  8. Also in regards to Pogge, I think it should be noted that in his previous career in the WHL, his numbers improved incrementally every season. His first year he started 44 games for Prince George and had a 2.83 GAA, the 2nd year he started only 24 games, his confidence took a hit and his save percentage dropped from .900 to .891 but he had a 2.80 GAA, the 3rd year he moved to Calgary and started 29 games with a 2.29 GAA but improved his save percentage to .917, and then in his 4th year again with Calgary he finished with 54 games played, a 1.72 GAA and a sterling .926 save percentage.

    In Toronto he’s gone from an .896 save percentage with a 3.03 GAA to a .899 save percantage along with a much improved 2.68 GAA. Frankly I think he needs the lions share of the starts, and an opportunity to prove his blue-chip prospect status.

    Price hardly spent any time in the AHL and was basically dropped into the Playoffs for Hamilton after 2 games at the tail end of the regular season. The fact that his Tri-City squad was eliminated in the playoffs after 6 games and that he then burst onto the scene with a Hamilton squad loaded with other blue-chip prospects to win the Calder Cup doesn’t indicate to me that he “dominated” the AHL. He didn’t last an entire season at that level. And he still hasn’t in the NHL. I’m not saying he ISN’T a blue chip prospect but Price hasn’t proven he can carry an NHL or even an AHL club for an entire season… he’s already feted as the next big thing in Montreal though. I grant he’s impressive and is going to be a top notch goalie, but Pogge hasn’t exactly been horrible and to imply he warrants no consideration as a top prospect is a bit alarming to me.

    The way the Leafs let talent develop seems pretty ad-hoc to me frankly. Nurturing doesn’t describe it.

  9. Save Percentage is, IMO, more of a measure of team defensive play. Take Kovalev’s second goal in last night’s Habs-Leafs tilt in Toronto. No goalie in the league would have stopped that. A brick wall might have. Might. 🙂

    If your defence keeps giving up high-quality scoring chances, more of them will go in, regardless of how good the goalie is. If all the shots come from the point or the perimeter, fewer will go in.

    Too bad there’s no stat for save percentage on quality scoring chances, and/or late in one-goal games. Couple that with a stat for “soft” goals, and we’d have a much better idea of which goalies are the best.

    Dany Sabourin really impressed me when he came into overtime in game 5 of the Canucks-Ducks series last year, having not played in weeks, and completely stoned Anaheim. That says a lot more about him, IMHO, than any stat can.

  10. There are shots that most goalies won’t stop and there are some shots that even the best defensive system can’t stop too, particularly when you are down a man. But lets take the Ottawa Senators as an example. How many times did Gerber give up bad goals in the Sens first 15 or so games? Very few. But over the past couple weeks Gerber and Emery have both given up several weak goals and one weak goal a game is the difference between a .930 save percentage and a .900 save percentage. Can you blame the Senators defense for Gerber letting in a shot from the blue line? Nope.

    Too bad there’s no stat for save percentage on quality scoring chances, and/or late in one-goal games. Couple that with a stat for “soft” goals, and we’d have a much better idea of which goalies are the best.

    There is no stat for that and it would be really difficult to keep a reliable stat for that since it would be a subjective measure. But myself and several others have tried to determine shot quality and have found the Leafs to be in the upper middle third of the league in lowest shot quality against.

  11. Hitch and Goalies: take it back to 2003 and Cechmanek had a .925 Sv% for Philly. His numbers the following season with LA were a pedestrian .906.

    Columbus and St. Louis, to me, are the perfect examples of how defense gets better with just a little extra effort and all five skaters being on the same page.

    I’ve been saying all along that Toskala is a good goalie and have been laying a lot of the blame at the feet of the TO Dmen. However, team defense involves the play of the forwards as well. I think it’s pretty safe to say that there isn’t a lot of trust amongst the TO players right now.

  12. David:

    If given an opportunity I take Lundqvist over Crosby. We’ll have to disagree on that one.

    I just can’t see this. Your contention is basically that bad goaltending sinks a franchise – but what about average goaltending?

    I guess my problem is that Crosby is a once in a generation talent, and Lundqvist type goaltenders come along once every 5 years or so. Furthermore, in the 90s there were several HOF goalies in their prime: Hasek, Brodeur, Roy, Joseph, Belfour, and someone whose name escapes me at the moment. You could even throw Mike Richter into that discussion.

    It’s tempting to use numbers from the 00s to support your point, but there has been a distinct paradigm shift – a team like ’06 Carolina gets snuffed out in the 1st round in the ‘old’ NHL. Goaltending is still rather important, but the goalies from the 4 Stanley Cup teams post lockout have been JS Gigeure, Ray Emery, Cam Ward, and Dwayne Roloson. Gigeure is the only one who figures to be a top 10 netminder. Ward and Emery might be top 10 down the road, but Luongo, Dipietro, and Lundqvist are better than they are, and guys like Lehtonen, Leclaire, Price, even M.A Fleury might end up being better as well.

    Or maybe it’s more powerful – since teams can’t slow down the superstars like they used to be able to, it’s up to the goaltender to stop the top players. I guess we’ll see.

  13. save% is the best stat to indicate good goaltending. if u think save% is indicative of good D play, then whats GAA? or wins? those are totally team oriented stats. save% is the amount of saves goalie will make as opposed to goals, a good goalie will make more saves, he will make harder saves more often, sure some goalie are left out to dry, but in the end a goalie’s save% is the most precise way of measuring a goalies success.

    as for goaltending vs forwards or defense. the way i see it, a str forwrd plays 22 minutes a game, some like lecav play 25, defencemen will play anywhere from 24-28, but a goalie plays all 60 minutes. therefore a goale has more of a chance to make a difference. which is why someone like luongo is more valuable than a lecav imo.

    not only does a goalie make the saves, but a good goalie gets in the head of opposing players. and that mental aspect is huge. luongo is a prime example. he pulls saves out of his as. do u know what lecavalier said after luongo was traded to florida? he said he was relieved to only play him maybe once a season instead of 8 times a season. this was lecavalier.

    a star goalie will always give u a chance on winning, a star forward can score goals (ovechkin) but is a smaller piece of the puzzle and forwards CAN get shut down.

  14. There’s a case to be made on both sides. Let’s recall the Wings teams in the seasons after they last won the cup. Following Hasek’s initial retirement, they brought in Cujo thinking he’d lead them back. He did very well in the regular season and posted solid save percentage numbers in the post season also, but the Wings COULDN’T SCORE any goals. Somehow this translated into Cujo being thrown under the bus. It’s easier to sacrifice 1 goalie than it is 10 (so called) scorers. It’s just the nature of the beast.

    The other point one could make is, dominant franchise level Centres and D-men in the NHL are far more rare than dominant goalies. It’s like the distinction in the NBA between elite big men, and elite perimeter players. Perimeter Players (a la McGrady, Carter, Wade, LeBron, Iverson, Kobe, etc.) can be AMAZINGLY talented. But almost every NBA franchise has a top end wing player. Elite Centres or Power Forwards on the other hand, are FAR more rare. The dominant Centres in the NBA can be counted on one hand. Shaq, Yao… and…Howard or Stoudamire? Then you get into players like Duncan, Nowitzki, Garnett, and Brand. That’s still only 8 players in the entire NBA. Finding a big man is like striking it rich.

    Similarly, most teams have a number 1 goalie in the NHL. Admittedly they play more, but their are enough of them that every year there’s another “up and coming” star, and there’s typically at least 1 top flight goalie either on every team, or in their system.

    Now, think about the last time a franchise centre came through the system of… the Islanders, the Devils, the Blackhawks, the Panthers, the Canucks, etc. A lot of teams lack top end centre icemen… and that’s a serious problem for most of them. It might not seem like a big deal in November, but come playoff time, having a premier face off man that logs big minutes and puts up points is VERY important. 2 of the last 3 cup winners had depth at Centre. Even Anaheim had size and defensive ability down the middle though they did lack scoring. Their D was a tad superlative though with Pronger and Neidermayer.

  15. steve: no one is saying center is not important. if u win the cup u pretty much have to have all 3 positions playing their best, no other way. but in the end a goalie still has the edge over the other 2 positions.

    the last team to win a cup without a “star” goalie was detroit with osgood and vernon. but those detroit teams were sick, and imo bowman is one of a kind and will bring out 200% in his players, not to mention u have stevie Y who imo is the best captain the NHL has ever seen.

    and theres a difference between star goalies and dominant goalies! most teams have a “good” goalie, but how many teans boast a dominant goalie? i cant think of maybe teams, and these dominant goalies always make your team that much better.

    luongo just got his 3rd straight shutout. third straight. he singlehandedly brought his team to the second round last season. crosby got swept in the first,

  16. The other point one could make is, dominant franchise level Centres and D-men in the NHL are far more rare than dominant goalies.

    Similarly, most teams have a number 1 goalie in the NHL.

    I disagree here. Most teams do not have a starter that is proven year in and year out that he is capable of top tier level of play for 65+ games a season.

    Kiprusoff (though he’s been horrible this year)

    After those guys you have some guys that are close like Miller, Nabokov and Vokoun. After those guys, I think everyone has question marks.

    Conversely, most teams have a center as good as any of Anaheim’s centers or defensemen as good or better than any of Carolina’s defense.

  17. How is Rick DiPietro not in that mix? He is already a top 10 goaltender and will be for the next 10+ years.

    There are also guys that are league average like Khabibulin, Legace, etc – those are clear number one goaltenders. Most teams have a guy who’s good enough that they wouldn’t consider trading for an Ilya Bryzgalov-type.

  18. Just missed DiPietro. He should be there.

    Khabibulin, Legace, etc. are OK goalies but honestly, if you are the Blues do you look to Legace as the goalie that can make you Stanley Cup contenders for the next 3-5 years?

    Most teams have a guy who’s good enough that they wouldn’t consider trading for an Ilya Bryzgalov-type.

    Because Bryzgalov hasn’t proven squat either.

  19. Ok based on the goalie stats of the past few years I honestly don’t see why we’d doubt the number one ability of Tomas Vokoun, Cristobal Huet, Evgeni Nabokov, or Ryan Miller. We could also toss out Manny Legace, Manny Fernandez, and Martin Gerber. Ilya Bryzgalov and Chris Mason have both carried teams for lengthy stretches while the number 1 was injured, and frankly did more than adequate jobs minding the crease.

    If you add in Brodeur, Luongo, Giguere, Di Pietro and Turco that’s 14 of the league’s teams who have top end goaltending.

    Pascal Leclaire is playing well enough to be in that group at this point in time.

    Kipprusoff is NOT playing well enough if we’re making an “elite” list as of right now. Lundqvist has only proven it over the course of 2 seasons… and through this season thus far. I admit I think he’s elite, but if you’re not including Legace, Huet, Gerber, or Vokoun, then I don’t know why you’d include Lundqvist… he hasn’t won anything more than they have, and their career save percentages are comparable.

    Personally I think Toskala is as good as many of these goalies, and we’re not even mentioning the other talent that is beginning to step up like Niklas Backstrom, Nolan Schaeffer, Josh Harding, Ray Emery, Dan Ellis, Mike Smith, Cam Ward, etc.

    That means we’ve got a list of 25 goalies. And I haven’t mentioned Khabibulin, Osgood, Tim Thomas, Jason Labarbera, Kari Lehtonen, Kevin Weekes, Carey Price, or Marc-Andre Fleury, who are all decent when they play up to their ability.

    If we ignore players like Theodore (who apparently has talent but will never return to form), that’s still more decent goalies than there are teams in the league.

    Which brings me back to my point of… top end, dominant, franchise level Centres or D men, are MORE rare than high end goalies you can win with.

    You can win a cup with Gerber and Ward. You can win a cup with Khabibulin. You can win a cup with Giguere and Bryzgalov. You can win a cup with Chris Osgood. You can’t win a cup without Lecavalier, Pronger, Neidermayer, Brind’amour, Staal, or any other number of pieces.

    Actually to be honest, I don’t even know if I think ANY of these pieces are as rare as we’re all making them out to be. The difficulty in all of this is building a cohesive TEAM. One player a foundation does not make. Perhaps that’s the problem with this whole debate… no team is going to win with just one player. Haven’t the Detroit Pistons, New England Patriots, and other teams like them proven that great teams are more than the sum of their parts?

    Lets just admit that no one player is going to win the cup on his own… and if he costs you too much, you aren’t going to be able to fill in the other pieces you need to get you there.

  20. In summary, if I could pick one player to build my team around, it would be someone like Mike Richards because of his leadership qualities, and tenacity. I’d also be inclined to pick a player like Corey Perry because of his fight/grit. Leadership really does matter. Crosby has it. But I don’t know if he has “it”… he’ll probably figure it out eventually.

    Either way… leadership counts for more in a franchise player than stats. And goaltenders are rarely the main player on any team. Luongo and Brodeur are… I don’t know if any other goalie is. Backstrom might get the nod if he can stay healthy, but I don’t think Minnesota has the team size to last through the playoffs.

  21. Oh, and Nathan Horton is another player I like the fight in… or Lucic in Boston, who I’ve already mentioned. Brad Boyes is another leader who might make something out of those Blues in time.

  22. Ok based on the goalie stats of the past few years I honestly don’t see why we’d doubt the number one ability of Tomas Vokoun, Cristobal Huet, Evgeni Nabokov, or Ryan Miller.

    Huet has never played in more than 42 games in a season or ever won 20 games in a season. He is nowhere close to being an elite level goalie.

    Vokoun has never had any playoff success though he has has shown himself to be a pretty good goalie in the regular season. Nabokov and Miller are close but I would say they are a tier below most of the other guys I mentioned.

  23. Steve:

    Khabibulin was an elite-level goalie when he won the Cup. Not so, now. He always had elite-level talent but couldn’t play a full season at that level.

    And that 98 Wings team was so good that they could overcome not having a great goaltender.

    Goaltending is less important now than it was pre-lockout but it’s still very important. If it’s a choice between a player like Mike Richards or Henrik Lundqvist, I’m taking the goalie every time.

  24. Khabibulin was an elite-level goalie when he won the Cup.

    Hardly. In the regular season he at various times almost lost the starting job to John Grahame. He had a .910 save percentage which isn’t bad but was only good for 26th in the NHL and was only 11th in wins with 28. That isn’t really elite level. He just had an outstanding playoff but the Lightning didn’t face many good teams that year either.

    And that 98 Wings team was so good that they could overcome not having a great goaltender.

    Teams like that 98 wings teams won’t ever happen again under the salary cap as not team can afford to accumulate that many star players. There will be no more teams like that.

  25. Ok… all I was going on was their career save percentages. Which would be logical since that’s the main justification for your arguments around who is and is not an elite level goaltender.

    Huet may not have ever started more than 40 games in a season, but he has a career .919 save percentage, and a 2.45 goals against average while playing on some defensively suspect Habs units.

    Vokoun has a career .913 save percentage during the regular season, and has started over 60 games 3 times in his career and one year started over 70. In the playoffs his career save percentage is .922 and his GAA average drops from 2.83 in the regular season to 2.47 in the playoffs. Those numbers are pretty much EXACTLY the type you were describing.

    If you’re arguing about goalies that do or do not win playoff rounds then you shouldn’t really be including Marty Turco as an elite goalie. He hasn’t won squat in the playoffs and his save percentage DROPS in the post season. Similarly Henrik Lundqvist’s numbers get worse in the post season across his career. He too has only won 1 playoff series. So again… I’m not exactly sure what qualifications you’re using for “elite” status here.

    You seem to basically be cherry picking goalies that you like. Either the guys career save percentage is a good indicator of his abilities or it isn’t. Either his playoff success and stats matter, or they don’t. You can’t have it both ways.

    If you’re arguing about number of starts made in a season, a lot of that has to do with the team a guy plays on and whether or not they have two suitable starters. Raycroft only started over 70 games last season because the backup was J.S. Aubin… not because he’s a stellar starter. I seriously doubt if the Leafs had Huet that they’d have any problems starting him 65-70 games in a year.

    So before this discussion continues, perhaps the requirements that define “elite” status should be figured out and made clear.

  26. I actually wasn’t suggesting that Khabibulin or Osgood are “elite” level goalies. I just said they are good enough to win a cup with.

    My point was in fact that Khabibulin is NOT elite. I didn’t include him in my initial list of quality goalies exactly for that reason. I added him at the very end to my list of “passable” goaltenders that are capable of winning games for stretches but probably not solid enough to win you a cup.

    That means we’ve got a list of 25 goalies. And I haven’t mentioned Khabibulin, Osgood, Tim Thomas, Jason Labarbera, Kari Lehtonen, Kevin Weekes, Carey Price, or Marc-Andre Fleury, who are all decent when they play up to their ability.

    I said “when they play up to their ability”… which implies they often do NOT play up to that level.

  27. You are vastly underrating the influence of the team on goaltending statistics and performance.

    Obviously the Stanley Cup winning goalie will have a good save percentage. If you don’t have a good save percentage (i.e. you concede a lot of goals), your team will lose. The Stanley Cup winning team will go at worst 16-12, and most go something like 16-8. Find a team that goes 16-8 over a 24 game stretch during the regular season, and check out the goalie’s save percentage, and it will almost by definition be very good. In the playoffs, goalscoring drops, so the stats are even better. It’s simple math, and it doesn’t make any sense at all to say the reason they won was because of the goalie’s high save percentage. Look at the stats for the goalies that lose in the Conference Finals, and they’re usually just as good as the goalies that win. Last year, Giguere was 9th among playoff goalies in save percentage. Ward was 6th in ’06, Khabibulin was 4th in ’04. The only thing you are proving is that there is survivorship bias in a sample of playoff goalies, not that goaltending is singularly important. Just think of the best recent playoff goalie performances, e.g. Giguere, Hasek, Roy, Kiprusoff, Vanbiesbrouck, etc. Most of those guys lost.

    If anything, that Cup-winners sample shows how truly elite goaltending is not required to win. The Cup-winning goalies average a .908 save percentage during the regular season, mostly in the midst of the dead puck era, which is not relatively impressive at all. The last time the regular season save percentage leader won the Stanley Cup was in 1982-83, and the guy who did it (Rollie Melanson) wasn’t even the starter on his team in the playoffs. In the last 18 seasons, the Vezina Trophy has gone to the Cup-winning goalie only once, and that was basically a lifetime achievement award for Martin Brodeur in 2003. The last 11 Cup winners all finished in the top 5 in the league in points. The team with the all-time record holder in seasonal save percentage in net (Hasek in ’99) entered the playoffs as a #7 seed. The simple reality is that only very good teams win the Stanley Cup, and what is required is not an elite goaltender, but merely a hot goaltender.

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