Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Scouting The Caps' NHL Goalies

While enthusiasm is bubbling over with regards to two of the Caps' younger goaltending prospects (Simeon Varalmov and Michael Neuvirth), I stumbled upon some interesting stats regarding NHL goalie save percentages over at Hockey Numbers regarding the two guys who will be holding down the NHL fort for the foreseeable future and figured I'd toss the numbers out there. I'm not totally sold on the methodology (I'm not sure, for example, whether the "Zone 2" is high glove for all goalies or just for those who catch left-handed), but the numbers paint a broad picture and confirms statistically what our eyes have been telling us for years.

First, the averages. Here's a graphic representing all NHL goalies and their save percentages, by zone, for 2006-07:

It's hardly surprising that goalies have better save percentages down low than up high, that low-stick is a stronger zone for netminders than low-glove, or that high-glove is a slightly easier save for most than high-stick. What may be surprising is that the fewest shots were fired at the zone with the lowest save percentage. Memo to skaters: shoot high and on the stick side!

Now let's take a look at Olie Kolzig:

If you've been watching Olie over the past decade or so, your heart has probably been in your throat every time you see an oncoming skater tee one up and send a shot just over his left shoulder. This graphic confirms why - like most goalies, high-glove is a danger zone for Olie. But for Kolzig it's a particularly vulnerable region. In fact (and you may want to look away for a minute), only Sean Burke, Robert Esche, Jose Theodore and Marc Denis had worse Zone 2 save percentages last year. That's not the kind of company a goalie wants to keep.

Also worth noting is Olie's below average save percentage on five-hole shots - not exactly uncommon among "tall" goalies (heck, even Roberto Luongo has a mortal's save percentage there), but a problem nonetheless and one that has earned him the derogatory nickname "Five-Holie" in some circles.

On the positive side of things, Olie's long legs give him incredible coverage down low, and that is reflected in simply awesome Zone 3 and 4 numbers.

As for Kolzig's back up, here's a look at Brent Johnson:

Johnny didn't exactly set the world afire last year (his save percentage was just .889, as opposed to Kolzig's .910), but his chart is interesting in that his best zones were pretty much Kolzig's worst and his worst were two of Olie's best. What does that mean? Nothing (but if Kolzig had Johnson's five-hole coverage and glove, he'd be a monster... then again, if my aunt had balls, she'd be my uncle).

Of course, these are pretty raw numbers. They don't differentiate among unscreened shots from the blueline, those coming from goal-mouth scrambles, Vinny Lecavalier one-timers versus a fourth-liner's wrister, etc. And I believe that, for some reason, shootout attempts are included (skewing Olie's numbers, especially his five-hole numbers) down further. But if nothing else, these charts confirm "the book" on Kolzig and that Johnny, well, had a bad year.


Caps Nut said...

I coinged "5-Holzig" in the season before the lockout when Olie couldn't stop anything between his legs.

I've also noticed that he often gets beaten short side over the stick. This is possibly because he's trying to cheat to the glove side when players are coming down the left wing. The players of course have access to the same data.

ted said...

I know that I had a number of conversations with fellow fans during the course of the year about Olie's propensity to give up a lot of goals on the high glove side. This pretty much confirms that.

Here's hoping he can get that percentage up this year.

Johnny does have a wicked good glove hand. So JP's idea of a "Frankenzilla" sounds apealing.

Joe said...

It didn't help our goalies that they had to face 450 more shots than the opposition last year.

Anonymous said...

Wiping up the soda I spewed out when reading your aunt/uncle quip. You are too witty.