Monday, December 24, 2007

Oh, To Be Average

A few days ago, someone expressed to me the opinion that even with average goaltending so far this year, the Caps would have five to eight more points and be right around the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference standings. I certainly didn't disagree with the assessment, but wondered how such an assertion could be quantified.

Well, thanks to Mirtle, I found an analysis over at Behindthenet Blog of five-on-five goals against that takes a goaltender's workload - including a broad measure of shot quality by accounting for the locations from which the shots faced are coming - and "shows the number of goals allowed by each NHL goaltender this season (minimum: 300 mins) and the expected number of goals allowed by an average goaltender."

Not surprisingly, the stats confirm what your eyes have been telling you - the Caps goaltending has been below average. In fact, Olie Kolzig and Brent Johnson rank 39th and 43rd, respectively, out of fifty in their statistical deviations from the expected norm and have combined to give up more than seven goals more than you'd expect from an "average" goaltender in five-on-five situations. Not good (but not Andrew Raycroft, so at least there's that).

What does that mean? It is, of course, still impossible to quantify how many points below-average goaltending has cost the Caps. But for a team that has the most one-goal losses in hockey and the second-worst winning percentage in the League in such games, it's a safe bet that with just average goaltending (remember, the seven "bad" goals above only take into account five-on-five goals), the Caps would be in much better shape right now. Five to eight points better? Quite probably.

The bottom line here, of course, is that without better goaltending the rest of the way this year, the Caps are going nowhere fast. And no one's demanding Vezina-caliber play - mediocre may very well be good enough. It certainly would be an upgrade over what they've gotten so far.

On a sidenote, this type of statistical analysis (check out The Forechecker for similarly great stuff) really is invaluable and adds a depth and understanding to the hockey world that only the blogosphere is providing. Kudos, guys.

Update (12/25): Five-on-four numbers are up, and it looks as if Olie is performing exactly as you'd expect an average goaltender to a man down but Johnny has actually saved the Caps two goals against. How 'bout that?


Anonymous said...

The Coyotes picked up Bryzgalov off of waivers, the Caps had plenty of cap room but decided not to.

Ogre said...

Would people shut up about Bryzgalov? We know. Regardless of what he would have done here, he's not here. And he won't be. Probably ever. Get over it. And if you're gonna bring that up, why remain anonymous?

That said, While the goaltending hasn't been great, JP might consider running stats on our offense compared to other offenses. I'm pretty sure we rank near the bottom of that category too. People look to goaltending first because it's the "easiest to fix" because it's just one guy.

Been a pretty mediocre season thus far from the whole team. In today's NHL, when you lose 3-2, most of the time the goalie's played pretty well, and you just can't score. Caps seem to lose 4-3 or 3-2 a lot.

Focality said...

Moaning about not picking up Bryzgalov is pointless. It fails to address what the Caps would do with Kolzig and Johnson. You just don't throw one on waivers and dump the other in Hershey or SC. Then Bryzgalov's salary will have to count towards next season's cap--in addition to Kolzig and Johnson (unless some deal is worked out, etc).

While the consensus among fans seems to say the Caps' current goaltending pair is inadequate, there's little out there to indicate where the team is heading as far as its future at that position. It's some sort of limbo, with Boudreau calling Kolzig out, Kolzig taking responsibility, but not much else.

Lots of speculation, and the whirlwind of trade rumors concerning AO only make a bad situation worse. I see sparks of intensity and brilliance on the ice since BB took over, but all the off-ice BS makes my enjoyment of this season difficult. Ted and Caps mgmt can't possibly be happy with the small money they're bringing in--although they'd be first to tell you the numbers are higher than last season (tickets, merchandising, attendance, Sid the Kid pics in the urinals, etc).

JP said...

@ Ogre:

Points well taken (especially about Bryzgalov), but I think the focus on the goaltending is fair, considering that the offense has gotten better under Boudreau while the goaltending hasn't (and, to be fair, you have to include the defense as a whole to some extent) - the goals per game under Gabby would be good enough for 6th in the League if they'd been scoring at that pace all season while the goals against per game would be 26th, which is only .067 better than their season average.

And "mediocre" is an overstatement of what this season has been so far.


1) Happy Holidays All!
2) We agree, going through again the BIG mistake of not picking up Bryzgalov is pointless right now.
3) There are unfortunatly few options this season for the Caps if this trend of below average goaltending continues
4) The question will be what do they do in preparation for next year? It would be way too much to ask for one of the 2 goalie high draft picks to be ready. (One may recall it took Kolzig 7 years to be a true #1)
5) The least favourable option may be their only option; The same duo-Johnson/Kolzig for one last season.

The Peerless said...

There is a larger question looming here. It has been almost an article of faith that the Caps would re-sign Kolzig to one more contract to fulfill the "whole career in one city" theme.

That isn't so much a certainty as it might have seemed in September. That he'll even be a Cap in March isn't as much a certainty. But the question is, what do the Caps do about goaltending next year?

The top scorer not signed for next year...uncertainty at goaltending...and if the Caps keep up their current standings points pace (68 points), I would think a new GM a certainty and a new coach likely (although it wouldn't be fair to Bruce Boudreau...such is the life of coaching in pro sports).

The Caps could be a bigger mess this July than they were at the start of the rebuild.

JP said...

I couldn't agree more about the uncertainty in goal. Olie's play has created a question where there was thought to be none.

As of right now, I strongly believe that on opening night next Fall, Alex Ovechkin will be in (Capitals) red, white and blue, Boudreau will be behind the bench and GMGM will be in the press box. As for the goaltender... I have never been less sure that it would be Kolzig.

D said...

The real problem started when the Caps signed Kolzig's last extension. They were poo then and were going to be poo for pretty much the life of the contract. Not finding a goaltender that would be a cheaper stopgap or someone to develop over that time was a big mistake -- as would re-signing Olie now. He's not just not able to steal the games every now and then that a mid-level contender needs. I'm worried that the Caps won't have a goalie that has the ability to take them into the playoffs, let alone deep into them, for the next several years without going to the bank and paying someone -- which isn't that likely with all the RFAs they're going to have to pay in the next couple seasons.


stefano said...

The Caps have a pretty average just above mediocre defense... there Goaltending is ok ..just no true totem leader on defense..morrison? not anything other than sux, yet there beatable ..the goaltending has to be perfect on this team

DMG said...

Ogre: I think people look at the goaltending because Kolzig has, by his own estimation, recently been allowing one soft goal a night.

Focality: The Caps have plenty of cap room and Bryzgalov's contract is up after this year.