From last Wednesday to this most recent Tuesday, the Edmonton Oilers only played two games of hockey. Jack Campbell started the first against the Carolina Hurricanes, Stuart Skinner the second against the Florida Panthers. These two games were the tail end of a four-game road trip that saw the Edmonton faceoff against some of the Eastern Conference’s, even the NHL’s best teams.
In one game, the Oilers were completely dominated as the Hurricanes were simply too much to handle. Giving up seven goals that game, Campbell was far from good and had some awful outcomes (read: goals against) on some brutal decision making. The Oilers rebounded by giving Skinner the reins the following game and he was outstanding, saving 40 of 42 shots faced and was a big reason the Edmonton won against the Panthers.
Another week of play and the tale of two goaltenders continued its now thematic storyline. Skinner is outplaying Campbell in almost all situations and it has forced the Oilers to play him more often than they expected to at the start of the season, much to his credit and Campbell’s discredit. Let’s see how their numbers compared this week.
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 November 2 to November 8 as well as over the season-to-date. All data is from NaturalStatTrick.com.
Teams are arranged by total team GSAx. This week, the team with the best GSAx was the Seattle Kraken. 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 5 GSAx visualisations for the four NHL divisions here.
This was another week where the Kraken led the division in GSAx thanks to Martin Jones. Let me rephrase: this was the second week in a row where the Kraken lead the division in GSAx thanks to Martin Jones. Over the past week, the Kraken were 0–1–1, but it wasn’t a goaltending issue at all. Simply put, Jones has been great as of late and it was a bit unfortunate he didn’t pick up any wins despite his play.
Right behind him, well that’d be Skinner. Skinner’s single game racked up 1.71 GSAx for him—a huge addition to his season total and one had him comfortably second. Unfortunately for the Oilers, Campbell found himself picking up -3.19 GSAx in his single appearance. Together, the two combined to be good enough for fifth in the Pacific. Skinner’s great performance was negated by Campbell’s not-so-great one.
Elsewhere in the division, John Gibson finally had a good week after being mostly negative so far this season. James Reimer was the busiest goaltender but settled right at -0.01 GSAx. Logan Thompson, who’s been great in terms of GSAx so far this season stumbled a bit, so we’ll see how he and Skinner compare on the season a little later below.
Finally, Thatcher Demko once again continues his brutal run with the Canucks so far, earning this week’s worst performance.
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. Skinner was second best behind Jones, Campbell was second worst ahead of Demko (14th out of 15 goalies).
Season-to-date goals saved above expected
The Pacific Division has been bad in the goaltending front. Outside of Skinner and Thompson, we have been waiting to see which other goaltender would elevate their play. Finally, midway through November, Jones finally joined the fray. Even then, when looking at the season-to-date chart below, it’s clear that most goaltenders in the division are negative.
Goaltending has been a weakness of the division overall, especially compared to the rest of the league. Now, Skinner has built himself some separation in the division, but he’s far from being the best in the NHL and not quite in the Vezina Trophy conversation yet. That said, it doesn’t discredit just how good he has been for Edmonton, whose shaky defence doesn’t make the goaltending job any easier.
While Campbell was brought in to be the starting goaltender, without Skinner to this point, the Oilers’ record would be much, much worse. Their 9–7–0 record (not counting their latest) has been a team effort, but for much of the season so far, Campbell’s lost games the Oilers should have won, and Skinner’s won games the Oilers should have lost.
Good teams see their goaltender steal games and win despite the players in front. For Edmonton, this has only happened really with Skinner, and this week’s GSAx is exact evidence of this. While in the context of one week it may be a small sample, but the same trend holds true when looking at the season to date. Edmonton’s goalies have fully diverged in GSAx with Skinner being tops in the division while Campbell is not last purely thanks to how bad Demko has been.
Eyes on Edmonton’s goalies
At this point in the season, the differences between Edmonton’s tandem can not be more stark. It’s up to coaching and the goalies to sort this out among themselves as they work towards having a strong season now and also for years to come.
Stay tuned each week for the latest goaltending GSAx updates!