Th Vegas Golden Knights picked up the gold medal this week as the top team in our weekly Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) rankings. Carried by a very good performance by Logan Thompson and not dragged too far down by a subpar week by Adin Hill, the Knights usurped last week’s champions, the Anaheim Ducks.
The Calgary Flames moved up to second spot this week, on the back of an excellent performance by Dan Vladar, but were dragged down by below-average production from Jacob Markstrom. The former Vezina trophy finalist has struggled mightily to carry this team the way his younger counterpart has.
The San Jose Sharks have retained their spot at the bottom of the Pacific division again this week. James Reimer had a better but not great week , but Kaapo Kahkonen struggled substanitally, ending as the worst goalie in the division this week. Yikes!
Let’s dive right into the full breakdown!
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 28 to January 3 as well as over the season-to-date. All data is from NaturalStatTrick.com.
Teams are arranged by total team GSAx. The Vegas Golden Knights 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 12 GSAx visualisations for the four NHL divisions here.
This is by far the most normal distribution that we have seen among goalies in the Pacific Division this season. Every goalie was somewhere between -2.5 and +2.5 GSAx, and only three goalies were outside of the -1.5 and +1.5 bounds: Logan Thompson, Spencer Martin, and Kaapo Kahkonen.
Also interestingly, nearly every team played two netminders who both faced similar numbers of shots. Only the Anaheim Ducks played just one in John Gibson, and he saw a subpar week in the crease. This has been an ongoing trend across the league of not riding just one goalie as the starter, but instead rolling two regular netminders over the course of the season.
This was also not the week that most starters, or those who have stolen the net, performed well. Jacob Markstrom looked worse than Dan Vladar, Pheonix Copley looked better than Jonathan Quick, and even Jack Campbell managed to look better than Stuart Skinner. In Campbell’s case, this was probably what had been initially expected at the start of the season, but Skinner has since been the better of the two netminders.
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 fifth while Skinner was 12th out of 15 Pacific Division goalies to play this past week.
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.
The Pacific Division continues to be all over the place this season. There are two netminders who have shown themselves to be real starting goalies for their teams in Thompson in Vegas and Gibson in Anaheim, but with very different results. Thompson has been the better of the two goalies – not exceptional but above expected. Gibson on the other hand, has been the worst of the Ducks’ three netminders, and while he does have a track record to show he can be better than he is, his production to this point has been a major issue for the rebuilding team in Anaheim.
Leaving Skinner aside for now, there are five goalies who have become dominant 1A netminders, facing around 600 shots against so far this season in Quick, Reimer, Markstrom, Martin, and Spencer Jones. All five have have been the second or third best goalies on their teams.
Markstrom has been much better of late, ending the week just below average, but still worse than young Vladar in Calgary. Darryl Sutter tends to ride or die with his starter, and Markstrom has really responded since November.
Jones has been the worst of the three goalies in Seattle, and Philipp Grubauer has been marginally better to this point in the season. Seattle has been one of the surprises in the division, so how they manage the two goalies plus former Arizona State University goalie Joey Daccord is going to be interesting to watch. Daccord has been the best of the three in limited minutes.
The San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks have both faced injury issues with their netminders, and both Reimer and Thatcher Demko have missed significant time this season. Reimer has been below average in his time with the Sharks this season, which is not surprising given how poor the team in front of him has been.
The Canucks have been dreadful so far this year, with many talking about a sustained rebuild. In Demko’s absence, Martin has really struggled to do much of anything to keep the team afloat. In fairness to him, it’s hard to think that the Canucks expected to be using him as much as they have, but the neither he nor the team in front of him have been good at keeping the puck out of their own goal. Collin Delia has looked better, but in very limited minutes.
Finally the Los Angeles Kings’ goaltending situation, which was once so promising, is now looking like a tirefire. Quick has been among the worst goalies in the division, rocking a nearly -13 GSAx so far this season. The team has sent Cal Petersen down to the AHL to find his game, despite him being on a three-year deal which pays him $5M per year. Copley has been better in limited minutes, but that doesn’t mean much at all. The Kings were not expected to be as good as they were last season, and they are starting to look like a flash in the pan as opposed to a real power in the Pacific.
Oilers goalies both struggled this week, but the team needs to be better in front of them
If there is one thing that can be said about the Oilers is that they have by far the widest disparity between their two netminders in the entire division. Skinner, despite a rocky week, is still by far the best goalie in the Pacific Division. He should very much be in the conversation for the Calder Trophy. Across the continent, rookie Pyotr Kochetkov has also looked quite good, but Skinner’s production has still been better in more minutes to this point in the season.
Then on the other side there’s Campbell, who despite being the better of the two goalies this week is still by far the second best goalie in the province’s capital. And look, I understand the takes about needing to get Campbell going for cap reasons and because his contract is going to become a boat anchor, but it has now been 39 games into the season, and coming off the back of an ugly 6–2 loss to the Seattle Kraken, the Oilers are 20–17–2 and are barely holding on to the last wildcard spot in the Western Conference. They are just one point up on the Colorado Avalanche who have three games in hand.
The Oilers are running out of runway to earn their way into a playoff spot and are running out of runway to keep playing Campbell until he finds his game. On top of that, they are running out of runway to get their skaters to play a complete effort on the ice. As good as Skinner has been, the Oilers have left their netminders out to dry particularly of late. There is no excuse for how poorly the Oilers have been in front of their goalies and the number of details that have been missed in their games of late.
Whatever it takes, be it a trade or a very long locker room conversation in which the players agree to give their all on the ice, this team needs to figure it out and figure it out fast. They do not have the time to mess around with guys trying to figure it out still, and if that means making Campbell the starter for the rest of the season, that’s what it needs to be.
Stay tuned each week for the latest goaltending GSAx updates!
Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire