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Why Don't the Flyers Play in Front of Boucher?

Pretty much all year, we've seen Brian Boucher get the hard-luck loss.  He gives up 2 goals, the team scores 1.  If he gives up 1 goal, the team gets shut out.  If he has a bad day and gives up 4 goals, the team actually scores - three goals.  No matter what he does, it seems as if the team will score exactly one goal less than he gave up.

Boucher's record this year is 8-18-3.  Has he really played this poorly?  To answer that question, TImo Seppa wrote a great article on the subject.  You can read it here.  Here's a small recap.  If you breakdown every game started by the three Flyers netminders, you see not much difference.

A fellow Puck Prospectus writer - Rob Volllman - found that when a goalie has a save percentage of .913 or higher in a game, he's expected to have a .777 winning percentage.  A full breakdown is available in the article.

But what does this mean?  Ray Emery and Brian Boucher have almost identical numbers.  Both have 15 games of .913 or higher save percentage.  Both have 11 games of .899 or lower.  Why the disparity?

Jump to see a breakdown of Boucher's season.

First, let's look at the games where Boucher had a .913 or higher save percentage - but the Flyers lost.

  • Nov. 23 @ COL:  In relief of Emery, Boucher stops 13 of 14 shots.  He gets the loss - .929 S% 
  • Nov. 28 @ ATL:  Boucher starts and stops 17 of 18 shots.  The only goal against came on a two-man advantage for the Thrashers.  The Flyers get shut out - .944 S%
  • Dec. 10 v. OTT:  Boucher stops 23 of 24 shots, only allowing a rebound goal.  The Flyers get shut out - .958 S% 
  • Dec. 17 v. PIT:  Boucher stops 28 of 30 shots, the Flyers lose in a shootout.  Both goals came on the power play, both came on rebounds. - .933 S%
  • Dec. 19 v. NYR:  Boucher stops 22 of 24 shots.  The first goal came off a turnover, the second came off Ryan Parent's leg.  The Flyers only score one goal - .917 S%
  • Mar. 16 @ NSH:  In relief of Leighton, Boucher stops 24 of 25 shots.  He gets the loss in the shootout - .960 S%
  • Mar. 23 @ OTT:  In the game where Gagne was boarded, Boucher stops 24 of 26 shots.  The Flyers get shutout - .923 S%
  • Apr. 2 v. MTL:  Boucher stops 22 of 23 shots, but the Flyers get shutout - .957 S%

You want a list of all the games where Ray Emery had a .913 save percentage or higher - and still lost?

  • Oct. 10 v. ANA:  Emery stopped 31 of 33 shots, losing in overtime - .939 S%
  • Oct. 27 @ WAS:  Emery stops 32 of 35 shots, the Flyers only score twice - .914 S%

What about Leighton, you say?

  • Jan. 1 @ BOS:  Winter Classic, we all remember.  Leighton stopped 24 of 26 shots, gets the overtime loss - .923 S%
  • Feb. 3 @ EDM:  This one was rough too:  Ryan Potulny scoring with 17 seconds left, Flyers get shutout.  Leighton stops 26 of 27 - .963 S%
  • Feb. 6 @ MIN:  He stops 28 of 30 shots, the Flyers only score one goal against Anton Khudobin - .933 S%

That's it.  Six times Boucher starts, has a .913 save percentage, but the team only collects one point.  Four times, the team in front of Boucher couldn't score.  Emery has two starts where he has a .913 or higher save percentage, and the team collects one point.  Leighton has three starts, the team collects one point.

Four times, even if Boucher was PERFECT, he only had a 50% chance of winning - less if you consider how bad the Flyers are in the shootout.

After breaking down Timo's findings above, let's go back to his conclusion.  The team could expect to win 32.4 points in Emery's 28 starts; 32 points in Leighton's 23 starts; and 31.4 points in Boucher's 28 starts.  But obviously, that's not how it worked out.

With numbers almost exactly like Ray Emery's - when breaking down per game - Boucher only garnered 17 points to Emery's 33.  Take those four shut losses as the first step to wondering why Boucher's win-loss record is so bad.  That's four losses where Boucher only gave up 5 goals combined. 

Rather than keep harping myself, two excerpts from TImo's conclusion:

it’s not surprising to find out that Boucher’s goal support has been 2.18 GF per game versus 2.89 GF per game in Philadelphia’s other starts – Not bad goaltending, not bad luck, but rather bad support. In comparison, the league’s worst offense, that of the Boston Bruins, has scored 2.48 GF per game.

Yes, Boucher’s been bad, but the team in front of him has been far worse. Philadelphia’s chances of beating out New York and of pulling off a first round upset rest with the Flyers’ skaters, not with their goaltender.