The Edmonton Oilers are starting to figure out their goalie tandem after some early turbulence in the season. Jack Campbell has gotten the reigns as the starter with a vote on confidence from head coach Jay Woodcroft starting him in the last three games of their homestand. Stuart Skinner got into his first game in over a week as a part of a back-to-back set, so expect Campbell to start later today.
Campbell’s starting to settle into his role and has had a good week. Let’s see how his latest run of games compares to the rest of the Pacific Division.
Pacific Division goals saved above expected
We can look at goaltending performances using goals saved above expected (GSAx), which gives a more objective way to assess whether they are performing above or below expectations. Are goalies making saves they wouldn’t be expected to, or are they letting in goals that they should be saving.
Each week on Thursdays we’ll look at the past week of goaltending performances, and also look at the whole season-to-date. Below is are plots of GSAx for Pacific Division goaltenders over the past week from October 19 to 25 as well as over the season-to-date. All data is from NaturalStatTrick.com.
Teams are arranged by total team GSAx, with the San Jose Sharks being on top of the GSAx battle this week (they only went 2–2–0 despite this). Also, every goaltender who’s made at least one appearance in the past week will be plotted on their team’s x-axis.
Essentially, goaltenders to the right of the plot with positive GSAx have outperformed expectations, whereas goaltenders to the left with negative GSAx have underperformed. The additional use of colour details a goaltender’s relative workload as well: the higher the shot count, the brighter yellow a goaltender is; and the lower the shot count, the darker blue.
Oilers goals saved above expected
Check out the full set of Week 2 GSAx visualisations for the four NHL divisions here.
Campbell has had a decent week. Being the Oilers’ only starting goaltender this past week, he’s seen a high workload (highlighted by his bright data point). Only Thatcher Demko has had a busier week in the Pacific Division. The different between Campbell and Demko however is that Campbell has a positive GSAx—Demko does not.
There were other goaltenders who fared better than Campbell did, but none were tasked with as many shots against. Jacob Markstrom led the Pacific with GSAx, followed by both James Reimer and Kaapo Kahkonen of the San Jose Sharks.
The raw GSAx numbers
The table below shows the same data used in the visualisation for clarity, and is sorted in order of highest to lowest GSAx. Campbell is sixth out of 13 goaltenders, but is third among goaltenders with three games played.
Season-to-date goals saved above expected
So far in the season, Skinner’s start to 2022–23 has been one of the best in the Pacific despite the limited playing time. With his outstanding performance against the Blues, he should see his GSAx total rise for next week provided he doesn’t have a truly bad game ahead.
As for Campbell, his run of three games to close out the homestand was good, but he’s still negative on the season. He still has a hole to climb out of, which can certainly happen sooner than later if he’s able to keep up his better form as of late.
Elsewhere in the Pacific, Logan Thompson leads the division with the most GSAx so far. Astonishingly, the four nearly yellow goaltenders in the chart, Reimer, Demko, John Gibson, and Jonathan Quick have been the NHL’s busiest goaltenders. The four of them have faced more shots thus far in the season than any other goaltender. For all four to be in one division is an interesting coincidence.
Gearing up for the season
The Oilers are turning their season around already. A slow start now has them 4–3–0, good for third in the Pacific.
While the data only includes their first six games, it’s still showing that the Oilers are trending in the right direction with their goaltending. Last week, I said that Campbell could pull himself from below-average to above-average if he gets in a few good games without those early goals. While he’s not quite above-average yet, he’s looking a lot better now as average than he did just seven days ago.
For Skinner, where he ranks next week will be interesting. He’s made a case every game he’s played in that he deserves more starts, so keep an eye on how the Oilers end up utilising their tandem.
Stay tuned each week for the latest goaltending GSAx updates!