Owning the Crease: Goalies getting their chance

    A lot was made of Frederik Andersen’s poor start to the 2016/2017 season. In fact, it was Frederik Andersen’s worst career start to a season.

    This was an especially sensitive situation. For one, since Ed Belfour, the Maple Leafs have struggled to find a legit #1 goalie. Secondly, Andersen was signed to a five-year contract before playing a game in Toronto. Like him or not, Maple Leafs fans are stuck with Andersen for the foreseeable future.

    Since then, Andersen has turned his game around. His record is above .500 and his save percentage has grown to .914%. For now, the city of Toronto has caught its breath.

    There has been a few examples in recent history of situations like the Andersen one. Situations where teams took a chance on a goalie with a successful track record of backing up, the skills to be a starting goalie but have yet been given the opportunity to be a clear-cut starter (or have not successfully maintained a start role).

    How have goalies in these situations performed? Did they struggle in their first games with a new team like Andersen did? Were they able to recover?

    Let’s take a look.

    Jonathan Bernier (Kings vs Maple Leafs)

    TEAMGamesGAASV%
    Kings622.36.912%
    Maple Leafs1512.74.915%

    Looking at his performance while he was playing in Toronto, Bernier actually had a slightly better save percentage than his time with Los Angeles. His goals against average took a hit while playing in Toronto, but we can contribute a large portion of that to playing on a much worse defensive team.

    Toronto2013/20142014/20152015/2016
    Save Percentage.923%.912%.908%
    Goals Against Average2.682.872.88

     

    This may be a distant memory to Maple Leafs fans, but Bernier was elite during his first year in Toronto. He was 6th in Save Percentage for all goalies with more than 50 games played. Unfortunately, he was unable to maintain that level of play for the next two years (pretty tiring facing 40 shots a night). His SV% slowly decreased over his time on Toronto, reaching a low point in his last year.

     

    Ben Bishop (Senators/Blues vs Lightning)

    TEAMGamesGAASV%
    Senators/Blues362.58.911%
    Lightning2132.29.921%
    *as of December 6th
    After short but promising stints in St. Louis and Ottawa to start his career, Bishop was traded to Tampa Bay in 2013 and given the opportunity to take over the crease. Bishop’s time with the Lightning has been successful so far, posting an improved .921 SV% and a 2.29 GAA.

    Tampa Bay2013/20142014/20152015/20162016/2017
    Save Percentage.924.916.926.910
    Goals Against Average2.232.322.062.74
    *as of December 6th

    *Not including 2012/2013 where he played 9 games for the Lightning

    Bishop started out hot in his first five games with the Lightning and continued that throughout the season. He finished the season with the fourth best SV% and second best GAA of any starting goalie.

    He has had a slow start to the current season, however, he has been a great pickup by the Lightning (especially since Cory Conacher, who they traded to get Bishop, was a total bust). If it was not for some untimely injuries during playoff runs, Bishop’s legacy would have been much more memorable.

     

    Devan Dubnyk (Oilers/Coyotes vs. Wild)

    TEAMGames GAASV%
    Edmonton/Arizona1922.88.910%
    Wild1262.06.927%
    *as of December 7th

    You did not read these numbers wrong. Since joining the Wild, Devan Dubnyk has been lights out and probably does not get the attention he deserves. (Kevin McGran – Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk flying under the radar).  In his first game after being traded from Arizona, Dubnyk shutout the Sabres and began his tear on the rest of the league.

    Minnesota2014/20152015/20162016/2017
    Save Percentage.936%.918%.946%
    Goals Against Average1.782.331.65
    *as of December 7th

    Dubnyk single handily turned around the Wild’s season in his first year as their starter. He finished the year with the second best SV% behind Carey Price for all starting goalies.  After an average second season by his standards, Dubnyk has been on fire for the beginning of the 2017/2017 season.  Again, he is battling Carey Price for the top goalie in the league. He currently leads all goalies in SV%, GAA and shutouts.

     

    Cory Schneider (Canucks vs. Devils)

    TEAMGamesGAASV%
    Canucks982.20.927%
    Devils1902.17.922%
    *as of December 6th

    Not much to criticize here. Really, Schneider has been a great goalie his entire career. Schneider was well seasoned before making the jump to full-time starter in New Jersey, It looks like making the transition from back-up to starter did not phase the former Canuck.

    New Jersey2013/20142014/20152015/20162016/2017
    Save Percentage.921%.925%.924%.912%
    Goals Against Average1.972.262.152.24
    *as of December 6th

    Incredible consistency marks Schneider’s time so far with New Jersey. Since being traded to the team, he has had a SV% above .920 in each of his first three full seasons.

    His first real test has come at the begun of the current season. His numbers are below his career average and it will be interesting to see if he can regain his form. History tells us he will.

     

    Cam Talbot (Ranger vs. Oilers)

    TEAMGamesGAASV%
    Rangers572.00.931%
    Oilers812.56.916%
    *as of December 6th

    Although a smaller sample size than Schneider, Talbot has also put up solid numbers throughout his entire NHL career. Playing behind Lundqvist, Talbot was arguably the most effective back-up in the league. Talbot’s numbers have had a reasonable and expected drop since joining the Oilers. His numbers as a back-up were unsustainable as a starter and he was joining a historically poor defensive team.

    Edmonton2015/20162016/2017
    Save Percentage.917%.914%
    Goals Against Average2.552.61
    *as of December 6th

    Talbot has been solid for Edmonton, keeping a SV% above .915 and maintaining an impressive GAA on a team with many defensive struggles.  Although still early in his career (Bernier looked pretty good at this point), Talbot looks to be an excellent pickup by the Oilers and is on his way to being one of the game’s elite.

    Conclusion

    There is not an exact science to goaltenders. It’s difficult to determine which goalies are ready to make the jump to starter status and even more difficult to say who can stay there. I think it is safe to say that promoting a goalie like the ones above are always going to be a risk. The fact is, you’ll never know how a goalie can handle the pressure and increased work load until they are put in that situation.

    In the examples above, most the goalies were risks that paid off. Each of the goalies (even Bernier for a while) have performed at an elite level after making the jump to starting goalie. However, one obvious correlation with each of their successes is the consistency at which they perform. In a full season with their new team, none of Bishop, Schneider, Dubnyk or Talbot have had a SV% below .915%.

    Every NHL goalie can be great, but it is the consistently good goalies who are able to keep their starting jobs.