May 28, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (32) makes a save off San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski (8) in the third period of game seven of the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Staples Center. Kings won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Is There A Correlation Between Regular Season And Playoff Success Among NHL Goaltenders?


In my last post, I compiled regular season even strength save percentage (ESSV%) numbers among NHL goaltenders over the last three years to try to determine which goalies had been the most consistent over that span. This time around I’m going to use these numbers and compare them with playoff numbers to try and see if there is any correlation. Do consistently good netminders tend to stay consistent come playoff time? Or is it more common for goalies to get hot and ride unsustainable percentages to a deep playoff run?

I admit this is a bit of a flawed study, in that the playoffs are a tiny sample size. In my last post, I made sure all the goalies had hit the three thousand even strength shots-against (ESSA) mark over the last three years to qualify for the list. Even a full regular season of data isn’t enough to properly evaluate a goaltender’s true skill level. So you shouldn’t read too much into each goalie’s individual results; this is more about looking at the goaltending position as a whole.

I set the mark for playoff ESSA at two hundred. There were either seven or eight goaltenders who qualified for any given year. Only Pekka Rinne, Antti Niemi, Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist qualified for more than one post-season (Yay for parity!). In total, 18 goaltenders qualified for this analysis. The regular season ESSV% numbers were compiled from stats.hockeyanalysis.com and the playoff ESSV% and all ESSA numbers from NHL.com. Without further ado, let’s look at the results on a year-by-year basis, starting with 2010-11:

Team

Reg. Season ESSA

Reg. Season ESSV%

Playoff ESSA

Playoff ESSV%

ESSV% Difference

Tim Thomas

BOS

1486

94.9

690

94.9

0

Roberto Luongo

VAN

1416

93.4

548

93.1

-0.3

Antti Niemi

CHI

1407

93.1

433

91.2

-1.9

Dwayne Roloson

TBL

788

92.4

431

92.1

-0.3

Jimmy Howard

DET

1492

91.5

281

94

+2.5

Pekka Rinne

NSH

1578

93.5

275

93.5

0

Carey Price

MTL

1683

93

216

92.6

-0.4

Michal Neuvirth

WSH

1024

91.8

213

91.5

-0.3

And in chart form:

With the exception of Niemi and Howard, there really is only a negligible difference between regular season and playoff ESSV%. Given the small sample size, it would be shortsighted to make any sweeping conclusions about each goaltender’s ability or inability to “step it up” in the post-season. But what we can glean from this information is that consistently good regular season goaltenders tend to stay good in the post-season. On to 2011-12:

Team

Reg. Season ESSA

Reg. Season ESSV%

Playoff ESSA

Playoff ESSV%

ESSV% Difference

Martin Brodeur

NJD

1225

91

491

93.9

+2.9

Mike Smith

PHX

1724

93.7

486

94.4

+0.7

Jonathan Quick

LAK

1479

93.4

428

94.6

+1.2

Henrik Lundqvist

NYR

1454

93.3

432

93.8

+0.5

Braden Holtby

WSH

161

92.7

400

94

+1.3

Pekka Rinne

NSH

1831

92.7

248

93.5

+0.8

Ilya Bryzgalov

PHI

1275

92

252

89.7

-2.3

Interestingly, every goaltender in this list except Bryzgalov improved their numbers in the post-season. The overall difference between regular season and playoff numbers this year was 9.7, a full four points higher than the year before. Still, the only goalies who saw their numbers fluctuate by more than 1.3 were Brodeur and Bryzgalov. Now let’s look at this past year:

Team

Reg. Season ESSA

Reg. Season ESSV%

Playoff ESSA

Playoff ESSV%

ESSV% Difference

Jimmy Howard

DET

905

94

372

93.8

-0.2

Henrik Lundqvist

NYR

966

93.6

358

94

+0.4

Tuukka Rask

BOS

832

93.6

333

94

+0.4

Jonathan Quick

LAK

731

90.7

321

96

+5.3

Craig Anderson

OTT

528

94

266

92.9

-1.1

Corey Crawford

CHI

636

93.2

265

92.5

-1.3

Antti Niemi

SJS

1012

93.1

252

94.4

+1.3

James Reimer

TOR

857

92.6

234

92.7

+0.1

The only goalie still playing in the playoffs who didn’t make the 200 ESSA cut line was Tomas Vokoun, who just barely missed it. It’s also interesting to note that James Reimer faced the most even strength shots out of any goaltender whose team was eliminated in the first round out of the past three years. Carey Price was the only other goaltender from a first round-eliminated team to qualify for this study. The obvious outlier this year is Jon Quick. If you take him out, the overall difference is 4.8; with him included it’s 10.1.

When you remove the five outliers from the study that vary by more than 1.3, you’re left with a difference of 1.3 in 2010-11, 4.5 in 2011-12 and 4.8 from this year. That’s a per goaltender difference of 0.22 in 2010-11, 0.9 in 2011-12 and 0.69 this year. That’s pretty negligible.

All in all, there are a few outliers every year who perform substantially above or below their expected level from the regular season, but for most goalies, there does seem to be a correlation. It will be interesting to revisit these numbers when the playoffs are over to see if there is more fluctuation. If I had more time, I would look at more years and see if this trend continues over the long-term. I’m no math major, so if you spot any inconsistencies or mistakes, please let me know in the comments.

Tags: 2013 NHL Playoffs Goaltending Toronto Maple Leafs

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