The Los Angeles Kings took the crown as the top team in the Pacific Division in this week’s Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) rankings. Led by 85 saves in three games from Pheonix Copley, the Kings were the pride of the division this week, coming back from being the bottom team last week.
Last week’s winners, the Edmonton Oilers, fell to sixth as neither Jack Campbell nor Stuart Skinner could perform better than expected. One of those goalies was better than the others.
Right at the bottom of the chart this week was the Vancouver Canucks, who rode one goalie in Spencer Martin, but he could not do much of anything. He finished with a -4.98 GSAx. Yikes! All this and more in this week’s GSAx roundup- let’s dive into it!
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 are plots of GSAx for Pacific Division goaltenders over the past week from December 14 to December 20 as well as over the season-to-date. All data is from NaturalStatTrick.com.
Teams are arranged by total team GSAx. The Los Angeles Kings had the best team GSAx this week. 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 10 GSAx visualisations for the four NHL divisions here.
This week’s chart broadly broke down into four categories. The first is the good ones: the aforementioned Copley, Martin Jones, Philipp Grubauer, and Lukas Dostal. All four were not only on the right side of the GSAx chart, but were all substantially above average for their respective teams. Dostal in Anaheim is particularly impressive, given how weak the Ducks have been this season.
Then there are the majority of the rest of the goalies in the division: both goalies for Vegas, Edmonton, San Jose, and Jacob Markstrom for Calgary. All were on the wrong side of the chart this week, but none were particularly bad relative to expected, falling somewhere betwen 0 and -2.5 GSAx. Markstrom took a huge tumble this week, ending last week at a 5.80 GSAx but dropping to -2.16 this week. The Flames are learning that Markstrom giveth and Markstrom taketh away.
Then there is Spencer Martin, who was downright dreadful for the Canucks. The team allowed 13 goals against in three games, picking up just one win in that stretch. The team in front of him did not do much either, scoring a grand total of six goals in that time, four of which came in just one game. This is a very rough time to be a Canucks fan, and Martin did not do much to help the team in front of him this week.
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 was sixth and Skinner was 10th out of 12 goalies.
Season-to-date goals saved above expected
We’re still starting to see some regression to the mean across the board, but the two poles of very good and very bad are really showing through this season.
On the one side, you’re seeing Skinner continuing to be among the best goalies in the league this year. He may have dropped off a touch from last week, but still is far and away the best goalie in the division, and deserves to be heavily in the conversation for the Calder Trophy.
On the other side of the chart are Jonathan Quick, Cal Petersen, Thatcher Demko, and Kaapo Kahkonen, who are all below -10 GSAx. Demko, Petersen, and Quick are particularly distressing given the way that their teams were expected to rely on them. Demko in particular was expected to be the goalie of the future for the Canucks, but has struggled mightily this season.
For the Kings, Petersen was rewarded with a big $5M contract and a modified no-trade clause that kicked in this season and lasts for three years. He is currently in the AHL. This is a huge problem for the Kings, who cannot buy a save from Quick, but are getting quite good production from Copley, albeit in a small sample size. They will need him to continue to perform if they have a hope of having the same type of season that they did last season.
Oilers goalies continue to see wide disparity in results
In what is a surprise to nobody, Skinner continues to be the Oilers’ best goalie and has stolen the net away from Campbell, who has struggled this season. Skinner has been just phenomenal all season long, and despite this weeks’ hiccups, he is still the best goalie the Oilers have at this point.
This is a problem for the team, who have paid Jack Campbell $5M a season for the next five years with a 10-team no-trade clause. It is hard to think of the Oilers moving this contract, not only because of the contract, but because they acquired him on the back of the team struggling for years without a bona-fide NHL starting netminder (Mike Smith’s playoff heroics aside). The team desperately needs to get Campbell going even if that means giving Skinner a bit of a reprieve from the net and even if that means the team struggles a bit on the scoresheet.
The good news is that it feels like an if not a when the Oilers get Campbell going. He is a legit NHL starter, and despite some injury worries, he still has a long track record of performing for teams on all levels. The Oilers just need to find a way to get the Soup out of the can this season.
Stay tuned each week for the latest goaltending GSAx updates!
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Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire