Since January 1, the Maple Leafs team save percentage has been....
Sorry, I’d rather burn down my house than finish that sentence. I can’t think of a thing more meaningless to say about a team or about goaltending or about their chances to win than picking a convenient end point to make some dramatic point.
And I’ve heard it so many times, in tones of dire dramatic warning, that I wondered... why aren’t the Leafs in last place then? And we all know the answer to that. They score a lot of goals, they win despite the goaltending a lot, and sometimes they lose in the face of a good goalie performance.
How much, though? What I was curious about is how big a deal is it to get below average goalie performances right now in the regular season. Some things are obvious: it’s easier to win with a goal goalie outing, it’s easier to lose with a bad one, and you can’t always score enough goals to win in any situation. But that doesn’t tell me the scale of what the Leafs have done with a good goalie and with a bad one in net on any given night.
Evolving Hockey’s game logs gave me this answer very easily. I chose the very simple method of defining goalie performance by simply saying any time the goals against were more than the Expeacted Goals Against, that was below average. Using this very harsh interpretation I get 40 games out of 66 that are below average. If I loosen that up and say that below average is at least .5 goals allowed over expected, I get 31 games. I think that’s a little more reasonable, since an xGA of 1.75 and GA of 2 is what most people call average.
This is the result:
As expected most of the wins, 28, come with at least average goaltending, and the Leafs, for all their reputation as blowing chances to win against easy opponents, have only lost seven times with at least an average performance from their own goalie. Most of their losses have some aspect of poor goaltending to them.
Meanwhile out of the 31 below average goalie performances, the winning and losing is a lot closer. There’s 14 wins and 17 losses.
This season to date, the Maple Leafs have not actually needed above average goaltending to win. It sure helps, but they’ve won a lot of games with everything from merely average to well below average goalie performances.
Having to play the number three and number four goalie on the depth chart for however long they need to, and then facing the mystery of Jack Campbell’s performance in the early stages of return from injury is not going to plunge the Leafs into losing every game.
The worry is really overstated, and the Leafs really can — fairly often — outscore disasters in net. The idea that NHL hockey is decided only by the goalie seems to be taking hold of people’s minds, and it’s really not true.
It’s not very likely that this situation can continue deep into a playoff run, but for now, it’s just an opportunity for some AHL-level goalies to try their best. The team will get through this fine.