Every goalie who makes it to the NHL will eventually come up with some nice saves if given the time as well as let in some stoppable shots. To a Flyers fan, such as me, every goal against was stoppable while Flyer goals scored were all well earned. So, just recalling big saves or weak goals against doesn’t say much about how good the state of Flyers goaltending is. A better way is to look for a way to judge how the goalie played on a given night in comparison to his opposing goalie that night from at least a relatively more neutral perspective. This also serves to help balance out team style of play: An offensive oriented team may hang their own goalie out to dry more often than a defensive oriented team, but they are also more likely to destroy an opposing goalie with offensive outbursts.
The biases of the three stars of the game are well known – there are sure biases towards the home team and towards goalies. As the stars are picked primarily by local media, there also can be other biases of subjectivity present…see, for example, the April 16th Flyers-Rangers game at the WFC where Jay Rosehill was named 3rd star while skating under 6 minutes of ice time registering no points and only one shot. For the purpose of this analysis, though, the biases are assumed to generally balance out or work in the favor of what’s being looked at. Each team plays the same number of home and away games, so that balances out, and the bias towards goalies leaves a larger pool of data to study. By just looking at the Three Stars, games where the goalies play relatively equally are minimized since on those nights it is likely that neither will be one of the stars. So, let’s get to it and see whether the Flyers goaltending “outstarred” their opponents this season:
During the 2013 regular season, Flyers opponents had significantly better goaltending than the Flyers when judged by the Three Stars of the Game results. Flyers goalies claimed one of the Three Stars on 13 occasions, opposing goaltenders claimed one of the Three Stars on 17 occasions – almost 33% more times. In head-to-head comparisons, the Flyers goaltender was a higher star than that night’s opponent 11 times while the opposing netminder was a higher star 15 times – again about 33% more.
Digging a bit deeper into the numbers, Bryz doesn’t shine. In the 40 games he started for the Flyers, he was the top star twice – i.e., just 5% of the time. Compare that to Steve Mason who started six games and was the top star of the game three times – i.e., 50% of the time. Bryz outplayed his opposing goalie 8 times and got outplayed, on basis of the 3 star rankings, 13 times. With the much smaller sample size, Mason outplayed his opposing goalie 3 times and got outstarred twice.
Worse yet, Martin Brodeur started just three games against the Flyers and was the night’s top star twice – i.e., 66% of the time or over thirteen times the rate of Bryz. Small sample size, of course, but: Ugh.