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Weekend FTB: Remembering how goalies work

Does one bad season make a goalie bad in the future?

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NHL: MAR 29 Maple Leafs at Bruins Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For a Saturday thought exercise, I decided to make a list of the top 10 goalies by all-situations save percentage in each season, going back the last 10 seasons (minimum 15 games played):

  • 2021/22: Shesterkin, Sorokin, Andersen, Markstrom, Kuemper, Comrie, Jarry, Husso, Saros, Stolarz
  • 2020/21: Nedeljkovic, Varlamov, Fleury, Saros, Driedger, Vasilevskiy, Smith, Grubauer, Campbell, Sorokin
  • 2019/20: Khudobin, Rask, Kuemper, Allen, Merzlikins, Francouz, Hellebuyck, Raanta, Jarry, Bishop
  • 2018/19: Bishop, Lehner, Campbell, Binnington, Greiss, Vasilevskiy, Kuemper, Brossoit, Khudobin, Halak
  • 2017/18: McElhinney, Hutton, Raanta, Luongo, Crawford, Miller, Fleury, Rinne, Gibson, Saros
  • 2016/17: Bobrovsky, Dell, Howard, Grubauer, Anderson, Holtby, Gibson, Darling, Saros, Dubnyk
  • 2015/16: Elliot, Bishop, Greiss, Lehner, Neuvirth, Crawford, Schneider, Enroth, Pickard, Reimer
  • 2014/15: Hammond, Price, Pickard, Dubnyk, Mason, Talbot, Schneider, Anderson, Holtby
  • 2013/14: Talbot, Jones, Harding, Stalock, Rask, Varlamov, Price, Khudobin, Grubauer, Johnson
  • 2012/13: Anderson, Bobrovsky, Rask, Schneider, Lundqvist, Crawford, Niemi, Reimer, LaBarbera, Howard

I bolded a goalie when they appeared in the top 10 two years in a row. Why did I put this list together? To remind everyone just how rare it is for a goalie to have a consistently good — not even great — save percentage for multiple years in a row. There’s a lot that goes into a goalie’s raw, unadjusted, all-situations save percentage which makes it a very noisy stat. Health, team defense/coaching, luck, and other elements of hockey can cause a pretty big swing.

But that’s what most people hem and haw about when they talk about any goalie. A goalie, like, say, Petr Mrazek. Who after one season with Toronto has been determined to be a terrible goalie who will never again have a good season in the NHL. And yet, if we look at his year over year save percentages...

  • .888
  • .923
  • .905
  • .914
  • .891
  • .910
  • .901
  • .921
  • .918

So in all the years that Mrazek has been a regular NHL goalie, he’s basically only had one two-year period where he had back to back good seasons. He’s also had numerous seasons where he missed a lot of time due to injury. But that isn’t exactly something uncommon to goalies. Campbell has had ups and downs and injuries. So has Andersen. So has Carey freaking Price.

I am not here to say that Mrazek is for sure going to come back next season and be an above average goalie again, whether its on the Leafs or another team. But I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he did. An .888 save percentage sure does seem bad, but no Leafs goalie was good, and the NHL average save percentage league-wide has been dropping for the last seven seasons, from .915 in 2015/16 down to .907 this past season. That’s the lowest it’s been since it was .905 in 2006/07, which was the second season after the lockout when there were double the powerplays that there is now.

I’m also not here to say that Mrazek’s contract is fine, because it sure hasn’t been so far. I’d still want to try and trade him and see if they can’t find a goalie who hasn’t missed so much time over the past two years in a row with frequent injuries. But all the Hindsight Harry’s out there

MAPLE LEAFS LINKS

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