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Season CSSI Wrap-Up: Goaltender Stats

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Give me back the stick, Chris; I'm the starter now!
Give me back the stick, Chris; I'm the starter now!

Finishing off the overview of the last set of adjustments for the Common Sense Scoring Index, we now turn our attention to the goalie stats that came out of this season. These stats had very little to do with the players' points adjustments, but had quite a few impacts on plus/minus hits. In general, when a goaltender gave up a bad goal or a half-bad goal, the rule of thumb was to clear all (or half) of the player minuses. After all, while there should be some attempt by players to prevent a shot, there should be no reason to punish him for a shot taken which should not be expected to beat the goaltender. Plenty of times, players were allowed to keep minuses on bad goals, but those were all tied to adjustable events.

For the goalie analysis, I did not go back through and create additional categories. A bad goal is a bad goal is a bad goal and there are simply too many variables that make up what constituted a "big save" to further reduce statistically. I did add assists to goaltenders as I saw fit, but those happened so rarely that they didn't warrant discussion in the points adjustment post. Four assists over 60 games for Jimmy Howard is always nice to see, but he's no Turco or Brodeur when it comes to helping his offense start the other way.

Player Name GP SV% GAA SOL Big Bad +/- Assists Rating-Per-Game
Howard, Jimmy
.908 2.79
+145 4
Osgood, Chris
.903 2.77 0 28
7.5 +20.5 1 +1.98
MacDonald, Joey
.917 2.58
1 39
+34.5 1


One thing to mention before we get deeper into the analysis, the GP line is not official. I did some minor rounding when coming to the figures. You'll notice that Thomas McCollum's 14:37 of 0.625 save % hockey doesn't appear anywhere and that the GP chart does not match up with's stats. I will discuss this and more about the chart below the jump.

So, as far as the GP disparity goes, it is very minor, but will be something I do differently next season. Technically, Jimmy Howard got credited for appearing in 63 games, but I'm more interested in his ice time. In total, Howard played 60.5 total increments of 60-minutes (3,615:15 minutes). It's probably more fair to go by that for games played, except that sometimes a game is 60 minutes and sometimes it is 65 and sometimes it is any number between those two. When trying to figure out a per-game rating, I let that time get lost in the shuffle. This does not do a great deal of moving the numbers around, but will be something that I fix for next season. The GP stat next year will match exactly with the official numbers for minutes played divided by 60.  It will simply be easier to track that way.

As far as the individual ratings goes, the project evolved slightly as the season went along and we noticed that the plus/minus rating for a game had a very good correlation with the overall feel of a goalie's game. A +2 rating for a game was the baseline standard for acceptable goaltending. Numbers from there stayed in the zero-to-plus-4 range with 0 being absolutely terrible and 4 being great. You can see by the numbers that Howard's season was about halfway between being just acceptable and being pretty good. Meanwhile, In Osgood's few games, he played just under a level that I would consider acceptable goaltending. The context of MacDonald's rating being better than Howard's is that MacDonald was utilized in much different situations. I do not believe MacDonald's ratings would have held up so well under additional pressure. MacDonald came into six games which he did not start. It is generally impossible to quantify (but I might try to do so later anyway), but there is a generally accepted axiom that teams play better in front of relief goalies. 

At the end of the season, all we can really compare these numbers to are each other, since there aren't adjusted ratings for other goalies. As such, there's good reason to compare the seasons of Joey MacDonald and Jimmy Howard. I don't think there's any argument that Osgood outplayed either of them. I'm going to break this down into two methods, the short and the long. If you don't want a huge explanation, skip ahead to the short section.

Jimmy Howard vs. Joey Macdonald - The Long Version

If the axiom that relief duties involve drastically different context holds up, it can also help to explain how MacDonald has more big saves and fewer bad goals on a per-game basis:

Player Big Saves/Game Bad Goals/Game
Howard, Jimmy 2.87 0.45
Osgood, Chris 2.71 0.73
MacDonald, Joey 3.31 0.38


As it stands,MacDonald gave up 31 goals all season. 2 of those goals came in 76 shots against during relief appearances. The remaining 29 came on the 296 shots he faced while starting. Despite the 37-save shutout against the Blue Jackets he had on March 17th, that puts his saves percentage during starts at a pedestrian .902 while his in-relief saves percentage was an incredible .974. That difference alone is a good indication that a team playing in front of a goalie who has had to come on in relief does a much better job of lowering total scoring chances (or total opportunities for bad goals).

On the other side of the coin though, playing from a trailing position will force a team to take more chances and give a goalie more opportunity for big saves without the risk of him having to worry as much about bad goals. The numbers here bear that out as well, as MacDonald gave up every one of his 4.5 bad goals against in starts, but had 34.6% (13.5 total) of his big saves come on in relief when he saw only 76 of the 372 (20.4%) total shots he faced. The Wings took more offensive chances while playing from behind for MacDonald in relief and the opponents got more odd-man rush attempts on the goaltender as a result.

So let's look at it as though MacDonald were two separate goalies. One goalie is the starter MacDonald and the other is the relief-goalie. To do so, let's normalize some numbers for comparison. If we're going to call 60 minutes a game, let's re-organize the goalie's numbers to show their games played stat as a function of their total ice time divided by 60 and adjust their per-game plus/minus accordingly.  Combining this adjustment while splitting Joey Mac's ice time between starts and relief appearances looks like this.:

Player GP SV% GAA Big Bad +/- Rating-Per-Game
Howard, Jimmy 60.50 .908 2.79 172 27 +145 +2.40
Macdonald, Joey (Relief) 3.19 .974 0.63 13.5 0 +13.5 +4.23
Macdonald, Joey (Starter) 8.82 .902 3.29 25.5 4.5 +21 +2.38


Now we go back to the per-game basis for big saves and bad goals:

Player Big Saves/Game Bad Goals/Game
Howard, Jimmy 2.84 0.45
Macdonald, Joey (Relief)
4.23 0.00
MacDonald, Joey (Starter)
2.89 0.51


If anything, the rating-per-game of Joey MacDonald as a starter might have meant I was going a bit easier on him or a bit harder on Howard. Ultimately, that's a small sample size anyway. If we take Starter Joey Mac's numbers and extrapolate out to Howard's playing time, then MacDonald makes three more big saves all season at the cost of four more bad goals. Of course, while we're playing with goofy numbers, that GAA alone equals out to 30 more goals allowed over the course of the season

So what have we proven? Well, I guess it shows what we knew going into this: Jimmy Howard is a better goaltender than Joey MacDonald, but he has room for improvement. I'd like to look at some other backups' stats though to see if MacDonald's numbers in relief are still so amazing when compared to the concept that all goalies who come into games in relief appearances have such good numbers.


Jimmy Howard vs. Joey MacDonald - The Short Version

For this statistical comparison, I will use significantly fewer numbers to show that Howard is a better goaltender than MacDonald (for all those two or three doubters... maybe)

Player Games In Which the Coach Felt Comfortable Playing Him
NHL Teams Who Consider Him a Starter
NHL Contracts Held
Howard, Jimmy 63 1
Osgood, Chris 11 0 0
MacDonald, Joey 15 0 0


Ta-Daaaa!  If you skipped all the junk above, just know that there's a reason Howard is the only goalie with a contract right now.


Going Forward with Goaltender CSSI Analysis

I'm not going to lie, I'm not horribly happy with the way this season's goalie adjustment system worked. It's a nice concept that a goalie needs to have two or more big saves for every bad goal he gives up, but I never really felt comfortable tying that into his overall rating. Basically, I created a system where 2=0 and that seems unnecessarily convoluted.

I did like the concept of counting bad goals. Those helped keep track of skater faults when it came to goals against and I believe they form a good baseline for longitudinal looks at goalie performance. I'm not sure if I'm going to keep counting big saves, though.  The problem with the big save is that it's arguable that every save a goaltender makes is a big one. There are spectacular saves that are made every season; most of those involve big, sweeping and impressive movements. The problem is that a goalie who is doing his job perfectly is not often caught in a position where he has to make a big obvious movement to stop a puck from going in. Generally, a goalie who is performing well is also performing somewhat quietly. That's not to say that every big, sweeping movement to make a save is an example of a goalie being in bad position and recovering, just that it's very difficult to break down between a man making an acrobatic save to stop a fantastically generated chance and a man making an acrobatic save to make up for a temporary jaunt outside of his own fundamentals (since a goalie who is consistently fundamentally flawed will not make it in the NHL anyway). The noise on this particular stat is very loud and I'm not sure I have the expertise to filter it.

Either way, I do not intend to factor the difference between those two counts for a ratings anymore. Instead, I'm proposing a rating system that goes from -4 to +4 and which starts at 0. Regardless of the count of big saves and bad goals, a keeper will be given an overall game score based on how well or poorly he played.  A 0 rating will be the baseline average. A goaltender who was deemed a non-factor in the game one way or another would get a 0. +4 and -4 will be very rare counts. I can't imagine a goalie getting to a -4 without getting pulled (possibly even shot). Alternately, a +4 rating should result in the team in front of him being hunted for sport after forcing such a difficult task on a goalie. The ratings between will be used to measure performance that was either above average, excellent, below average, or terrible.

I'd really like some reader feedback on what kind of changes can be made to the goalie tracking system to make it better. Do you think I've got it fixed with this or would you like to see a different format used? I don't think last season's system was terrible, but it had extra parts I feel it didn't need. Howard's plus/minus did a decent job of passing the sight test of a season where he was good more than he was bad, but he left us wanting more.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  Thanks!