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Using adjusted save percentage, let's find the NHL's best goalie

Let's figure out which goalies were the best in 2013, using basically nothing more than league-average save percentages and total shots faced.

Shortened seasons: the lands in which Steve Mason is an above-average goaltender.
Shortened seasons: the lands in which Steve Mason is an above-average goaltender.

Last summer, I took a crack at trying to standardize and evaluate goalie performance using something I called SV+, or Adjusted Save Percentage.

Modeled after stats like ERA+ and OPS+ in baseball, it's expressed in such a way that anything above 100 means a goalie is posting an above-average save percentage and anything below 100 means they aren't. The number, in short, expresses how many goals a league-average goalie would allow in the number of shots it would take a given goalie to allow 100. I won't go too much into the specifics in this post, so check that post for further definition/explanation.

Before we look into this year's version of the charts in the post linked above, a couple of quick notes that I didn't mention the first time around.

--The thing about this number is that it assumes that changes in all-around goalie numbers over time are largely out of a goalie's control. To put that one way: in 2011-12 the average save percentage in the NHL was .914, while this year it was down to .912. Is that because goalies simply got worse between last year and this one? Could be, but the fact that average goalie numbers have increased pretty consistently since the full-season lockout leads me to think that they didn't all just get together before this season and decide to start being worse. I think there's probably another explanation -- maybe offense is up, maybe defenses were allowing higher-quality shots since they weren't able to work together much during the lockout, maybe there were more power plays called, etc. (I have no idea if any or all of those claims are true, and that's a project for someone else, but here it's beside the point.) Essentially, I think league-wide trends outside of a goalie's control do affect his performance, and SV+ reflects that.

--Last year I just used the save percentage numbers and kind of left them there for us to look at, but didn't do much more with them. Looking back, that probably wasn't the right way to go about it. Think about it -- Brian Elliott and Cory Schneider, the top two names on the list, played 38 and 33 games in 2011-12 respectively. Is their performance actually more impressive than Mike Smith's or Henrik Lundqvist's, who put up fantastic numbers while playing 67 and 62 games? Maybe it's just me, but I don't think so.

So this year's version includes a slight correction there, which we'll call Goals Saved Above Average (abbreviated as GSAA through this piece). In simplest terms, it's the difference in goals between what a goalie allowed and what a league-average goalie would allow in the exact same number of shots. It's calculated based on save percentages, goals allowed, and shots faces, meaning that, for example, if two guys posted the exact same save percentage but one faced twice as many shots, his GSAA would be twice as high (or as low, if it was below-average). Fairly straightforward.

Cool? Cool. Here's the 2013 season numbers, sorted by GSAA. (I arbitrarily decided to only include goalies that faced at least 100 shots.)

Name Team SV+ GSAA SV%
Sergei Bobrovsky CBJ 129.02 21.48 0.932
Craig Anderson OTT 149.07 19.63 0.941
Henrik Lundqvist NYR 119.10 16.81 0.926
Tuukka Rask BOS 123.31 16.32 0.929
Antti Niemi SJS 115.54 14.45 0.924
Cory Schneider VAN 120.56 12.54 0.927
Jimmy Howard DET 114.30 12.44 0.923
James Reimer TOR 115.31 11.64 0.924
Corey Crawford CHI 118.83 10.73 0.926
Robin Lehner OTT 138.31 10.34 0.936
Devan Dubnyk EDM 110.88 9.79 0.921
Braden Holtby WSH 109.90 8.91 0.920
Viktor Fasth ANA 111.96 6.22 0.921
Ben Bishop TOT 110.25 5.74 0.920
Jason LaBarbera PHX 115.05 4.82 0.923
Ray Emery CHI 112.54 4.52 0.922
Chad Johnson PHX 190.25 4.51 0.954
Kari Lehtonen DAL 105.09 4.48 0.916
Nikolai Khabibulin EDM 114.20 4.12 0.923
Ryan Miller BUF 103.57 3.86 0.915
Tomas Vokoun PIT 108.84 3.71 0.919
Marc-Andre Fleury PIT 104.86 3.60 0.916
Anton Khudobin BOS 110.24 3.17 0.920
Jonathan Bernier LAK 112.30 2.95 0.922
Steve Mason TOT 105.13 2.41 0.916
Jhonas Enroth BUF 108.30 2.24 0.919
Ben Scrivens TOR 103.78 1.74 0.915
Martin Biron NYR 105.69 0.74 0.917
Darcy Kuemper MIN 104.81 0.48 0.916
Thomas Greiss SJS 103.66 0.48 0.915
Jonas Hiller ANA 100.77 0.45 0.913
Michal Neuvirth WSH 97.95 -0.68 0.910
Peter Budaj MTL 96.18 -0.95 0.908
Mike Smith PHX 98.35 -1.38 0.910
Jean-Sebastien Giguere COL 96.07 -1.69 0.908
Cam Ward CAR 95.48 -1.99 0.908
Pekka Rinne NSH 97.95 -2.03 0.91
Christopher Nihlstorp DAL 85.73 -2.14 0.897
Al Montoya WPG 87.04 -2.20 0.899
Kevin Poulin NYI 82.66 -2.25 0.893
Roberto Luongo VAN 95.16 -2.47 0.907
Jake Allen STL 92.35 -2.53 0.905
Brian Elliott STL 94.55 -2.67 0.907
Evgeni Nabokov NYI 97.40 -2.68 0.910
Dan Ellis CAR 94.01 -3.12 0.906
Niklas Backstrom MIN 96.35 -3.58 0.909
Leland Irving CGY 75.16 -3.73 0.883
Jaroslav Halak STL 86.86 -3.81 0.899
Jonas Gustavsson DET 72.53 -4.67 0.879
Joey MacDonald CGY 90.00 -5.50 0.902
Mathieu Garon TBL 85.47 -6.39 0.897
Anders Lindback TBL 89.75 -6.45 0.902
Carey Price MTL 92.44 -7.34 0.905
Martin Brodeur NJD 88.62 -7.40 0.901
Jose Theodore FLA 82.00 -7.56 0.893
Richard Bachman DAL 76.87 -7.63 0.885
Jacob Markstrom FLA 88.72 -7.67 0.901
Jonathan Quick LAK 90.00 -8.70 0.902
Ondrej Pavelec WPG 92.59 -8.82 0.905
Chris Mason NSH 69.55 -8.83 0.873
Semyon Varlamov COL 90.41 -9.39 0.903
Justin Peters CAR 81.03 -10.43 0.891
Johan Hedberg NJD 75.12 -12.69 0.883
Ilya Bryzgalov PHI 87.75 -13.11 0.900
Scott Clemmensen FLA 69.96 -15.92 0.874
Miikka Kiprusoff CGY 74.35 -19.75 0.882

Names that stuck out to me, and other thoughts:

--Should of* kept?

--But seriously, all hindsight/trade arguments aside, it was a hell of a year for Sergei Bobrovsky, especially so when you consider that almost all of the difference there came just from the second half of the season. He's probably going to win the Vezina and he'll deserve it.

--Craig Anderson played for half of this season. That he put up the numbers he did in that sample is fairly incredible, though it also makes you wonder how much higher (or lower) that goals-saved figure would be if he hadn't missed time due to injury.

--Last year, I noted that only five goalies -- Lundqvist, Luongo, Vokoun, Lehtonen and Niemi -- had played at least three seasons as a primary starter and had never finished any single year since the 2004-05 season with a below-average save percentage. That streak continued this year for four of them, and it would've been all five if not for a clunker from Luongo on the season's final night. Pretty impressive consistency.

--Meanwhile, how about Pekka Rinne, Carey Price and Jonathan Quick ALL being below-average? Not a good year for goalies who recently signed super-long-term contracts.

--Since this is indeed a Flyers blog, I'm obligated to note that Ilya Bryzgalov being third-lowest on the list just makes me really sad.

--Meanwhile: I'll laugh at Steve Mason until the sun comes up because he isn't really very good even though 62% of Philadelphia currently thinks he's The Savior, but his numbers this year between Columbus and Philadelphia were actually above league-average. No, this does not mean he should be handed the starting job for next season. Hell no. But for all of the shots I and many others have taken at him in the last month, it's worth noting he did, in fact, do well for himself this year. Man, shortened seasons are nuts.

--If there's one takeaway you have from this post, let it be these next two tables. Here are the top 10 goalies, by GSAA, from the 2011-12 season, with their 2013 totals side-by-side. (Tim Thomas was technically 10th, but since he didn't play and all, Jimmy Howard got bumped up.)

2011-12 GSAA 2013 GSAA Difference
Mike Smith 34.63 -1.38 -36.01
Henrik Lundqvist 28.57 16.81 -11.76
Jonathan Quick 28.08 -8.7 -36.78
Brian Elliott 26.04 -2.67 -28.71
Cory Schneider 21.71 12.54 -9.17
Pekka Rinne 20.15 -2.03 -22.18
Jaroslav Halak 14.71 -3.81 -18.52
Miikka Kiprusoff 14.38 -19.75 -34.13
Kari Lehtonen 14.36 4.48 -9.88
Jimmy Howard 10.35 12.44 2.09
Total GSAA 212.98 7.93
Total SV+ 117.88 101.05

So the guys who were on top of the world last season, collectively, fell off and were as a whole slightly above-average. Obviously there was some variation within the group - a few guys stayed strong, a few fell down closer to average, and one fell totally off the map and was the worst goalie in the league this year.

Now, here are this year's top 10 goalies, with their 2011-12 numbers also side-by-side.

2011-12 GSAA 2013 GSAA Difference
Sergei Bobrovsky -11.51 21.48 32.99
Craig Anderson -0.34 19.63 19.97
Henrik Lundqvist 9.69 16.81 7.12
Tuukka Rask 2.25 16.32 14.07
Antti Niemi 28.57 14.45 -14.12
Cory Schneider -12.79 12.54 25.33
Jimmy Howard 21.71 12.44 -9.27
James Reimer 10.35 11.64 1.29
Corey Crawford -15.7 10.73 26.43
Robin Lehner 3.32 10.34 7.02
Total GSAA 35.55 146.38
Total SV+ 103.66 121.75

Stop me if it sounds like there's an echo in here: the guys who were on top of the world this season were, collectively, slightly above-average last season. While you've got some mainstays from the previous chart (Lundqvist, Howard, Schneider), you've also got three guys who were downright bad last year (Bobrovsky, Crawford, Reimer) and others who were pretty average (Niemi, Anderson).

Basically: as a whole, the guys who are really good one year are not a guarantee to be really good again in another year. Everyone together, now: never ever ever ever ever react too much to one good/bad year by a goaltender. Take this advice and apply it to every single goalie you talk about this summer and every summer ever.

--One other thing you may have noticed: the top guys this year had more impressive numbers than the guys from last year, with a collective SV+ that was higher (121.75 compared to 117.88) than last year's. That may also be a product of the shortened season -- chances are those guys don't all keep up their tremendous numbers at their current rates if this is an 82-game season.

Obviously, a lot of numbers in here, so feel free to ask in the comments for any clarification, and/or to point out anything else that seems odd or incorrect.

* Yes, I'm well aware that "should of" is improper phrasing of the term "should have". Further reading here.

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