Halfway There Report Card: The Goalies

The Rangers have been the beneficiary of incredibly solid goaltending from both of their tendys this year.  There has been rampant debate on the interwebs about the league’s best tandem between the Blueshirts, Bruins, Canucks and Blues (Jaro Halak’s early season struggles notwithstanding).  The biggest difference between the Rangers and the rest of the field is that they employ a traditional starter/backup arrangement, while the rest of the field has a starter/emerging starter set up.  This makes the debate a little murky, but regardless, Rangers’ fans can feel very good about the men guarding the pipes this season.  To the grades….

Martin Biron- I’m normally a very tough grader when it comes to goalie performance but the Rangers tandem is really tying my hands for the midterm grades.  Marty has been a revelation in relief so far this season.  His 2.06 GAA and .922 save % are high quality for a starter, much less a backup.  His 8-2-0 record also bears out how well he has played behind Hank thus far.  He plays an incredibly calm style, with very little excess movement, which helps keep his defense calm in front of him.  He may not be the flashiest or the most athletic goalie in the league, but he is a rock back there.  At only 10 games started through almost the first half, it would benefit Torts to get Marty a little more time down the stretch run if only to make sure Hank is fresh for the playoffs.  Grade: A

Henrik Lundqvist- What more is there really to say about Henrik Lundqvist?  At 29 years old he is coming into his physical prime.  Goalies tend to mature late (not that Hank has been anything less than stellar his first six years, but those questioning his step forward this year seem to feel he is likely to regress to his career averages), which would explain the serious increase in almost all statistical categories.  It appears Hank is really putting it all together right as this team heads into it’s window to contend.  He currently sports a 1.89 GAA and a staggering .939 save percentage.  I generally tend not to put a ton of stock in either of these stats as they are very context specific, but wow.  Hank is the backbone of this team and with the way he has played in the first half, the sky is the limit for the King.  Grade: A+

I just wanted to make one final point about the pace that the Rangers’ keepers are on this year.  I have been reading quite a bit of conjecture about how they are likely to experience some regression between the pipes, and while it is certainly possible, I find it more likely the pace continues. Marty, even at 34, is not cut from the true backup cloth.  He still could start on a non-contending team, and bringing that ability and experience to a backup role has been tremendous for his production.  I don’t see an outlier here.  His stats at the end of the year may not be as shiny as they stand today, but I don’t foresee a substantial decline in the quality of his play.

As for Hank, his consistency is what has made him a top 5 NHL goalie the past few years.  It seems now he is ready to take a big step forward and couple that consistency with elite production.  While there are several goalies having fantastic years so far, it would not surprise me in the slightest if this year the King takes home some serious hardware.

*Here is Dave’s mid-season report for the defense & Suit’s report for our bottom six forwards. Stay tuned for reports on the top 6 forwards and our coaches.

11 Responses to “Halfway There Report Card: The Goalies”

  1. RangerSmurf says:

    Lundqvist is relatively consistent, but he’s still subject to the ebbs and flows:

    http://bit.ly/xA9lyb

    Those downswings for Henrik are what people are looking at who think the goaltending will come back to earth a bit.

    Biron’s already started to look shakier in his last couple of starts. He’s a quality backup for sure, but he was playing at a Henrik/Thomas level. That isn’t/wasn’t going to last.

    • Justin says:

      Smurf, the problem is that data just exacerbates the existing problems with the save% stat. A 10 game average is just too small a sample size to work in given the inherent fluctuations in the statistic.

      Think about it, if you have a very defensively tight game in which the goaltender has 18 saves, but there are two 2-on-1 goals and a deflection off the goalie’s own player, the tender is left with a .857 save percentage. Contrast that with a goalie (think Elliot in the Rangers game with the Blues) who has 28 saves, allows 1 goal, but all shots came from the periphery. That goalie has a .964 save percentage. The flaws in the math are enhanced by the complete lack of context in a sample that small.

      Henrik’s GAA and Save percentages since his rookie season are as follows. GAA: 2.24, 2.34, 2.23, 2.43, 2.38, 2.28, 1.89 (so far)
      Sv%: 922, .917, .912, .916, .921, .923, .939 (so far)

      For full season statistics you are looking at a max range of .19 goals per game and .11% over six(!) full seasons. To me, that is the definition of consistency.

      As for Marty, the numbers aren’t as important to me as watching him play. 10 starts is far to small a sample to extrapolate statistics, but he seems to be very well prepared for each start and isn’t playing above his head. He is making smart decisions on the ice and making the most of each start. As I mentioned in the post, I don’t think his numbers will be as shiny at the end of the season, but I see no evidence that would support a marked decline in performance.

      • RangerSmurf says:

        A .011 difference in save percentage, that’s pretty big. For ~1700 shots Hank faces every year, that’s nearly a 19 goal difference. Almost an extra goal every 3 starts.

        As for Biron, sure, consistency helps, but what the ‘regressionists’ are talking about are his numbers. It’s all well and good if he looks fine, but again, if he’s letting up an extra goal every couple starts, it’s going to have an impact on the W/L column eventually.

        • The Suit says:

          Hank hasn’t had a bad month statistically since December 2008? Pretty consistent if you ask me.

        • Justin says:

          You make a valid point Smurf. I didn’t mean to insinuate that the differences within Hank’s numbers were meaningless, just considerably more consistent than some of his peers.

          Tim Thomas, for example has a max range of 1.13 goals per game and .38%. Considerably larger fluctuation than Hank over the same period of time It is obviously not realistic to expect a goalie to replicate the exact same statistics each year, but Lundqvist is as close as realistically possible.

          The regressionists also cling to the faulty logic that a 29 year old goalie simply “is what he is” without possibility of improvement. Just because he has put up consistent numbers in the past does not mean he is incapable of improvement as he enters his prime, plays behind a stronger team, etc. Goalie historically take a longer time to develop than any other position, and it seems shortsighted to assume just because Hank produced amongst the top tier goalies prior to this season that he had reached the peak of his development curve.

  2. Zen says:

    Henrik = A+++++++++++++++++++….

  3. The Suit says:

    If only the league kept a quality shot save percentage, Lundqvist would have had his Vezina a long time ago. He’s the most consistent goaltender in the league. Miller, Thomas, Brzy, Roberto, have all had down seasons. Hank has not.

    Great post.

    • Justin says:

      I agree 100% Suit. Its the fact that Hank has been so consistent but hasn’t put up one of those “monster” seasons that he gets overlooked for the Vezina. Hopefully, the hockey community will begin to develop/accept the advanced metrics that make evaluation more accurate.

      • The Suit says:

        Absolutely. This is especially the case with the 06-07, Hank’s “worst season.” Our defense left him hanging that year. Seemed like every other save was off a breakaway or an odd-man rush. Malik, Ozolinsh, Rozi, Ward, etc. couldn’t hold the blueline to save their lives.

    • RangerSmurf says:

      I think Thomas still wins his two Vezina’s with a shot quality sv%, but your point stands.

  4. Walt says:

    The stats are impressive, but to be candid, it means crap. Hank is outstanding, and if he isn’t rated the best in the NHL, well there out to get him!

    Now to Marty, and his 8 and 2 record. The team seems to trust Marty, and are comfortable with him in net. They play hard for him. He has a calming affect, and seems jolly with the guys. He understands his role, and there is a certain unwritten rule that he is no threat to Hank, and both men know that to be the case. He is more than willing to pass along good advice to Hank, example, shoot outs, and to the shooters as well. The man was a starter in Buffalo, the island, and Filthadelphia. He is solid, and I for one am glad to have him back up Hank!!!