For years, hockey fans have recognized the real-life and fantasy hockey value of New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
King Henrik is widely regarded as one of the Rangers’ most legendary stoppers. Though, that doesn’t stop him from showing respect for his predecessors:
1/26 I'll be sitting down with these 2 legends to answer your questions. #Eddie #Richter http://t.co/X441qcs2G2 pic.twitter.com/i7V88MY1E8
— Henrik Lundqvist (@HLundqvist30) January 19, 2015
On the surface, this season is no different. Prior to his terrifying throat injury, Lundqvist was in the midst of another stellar season. His standard stats (25 wins, 2.25 GAA, .922 SV%, 5 SO) all rank in the NHL’s top-ten for starting netminders.
But a new king is on the rise.
A deeper look at Lundqvist’s stats (along with the rest of the NHL starters) reveals that the Rangers’ goalie is no longer the best puck-stopper in the league. In fact, using advanced statistics, it’s clear that a number of stoppers have passed Lundqvist in the NHL’s goalie hierarchy.
Let’s take a closer look at the advanced stats to see who the NHL’s top netminders are this season.
Carey Price Leads the Next Generation of Elite Stoppers
On the bench with the happiest guy in the rink!! pic.twitter.com/waSzRaOcsC
— Carey Price (@CP0031) January 25, 2015
In place of the King, a new royalty has emerged. And all star Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price leads the way.
War-On-Ice.com has compiled adjusted save percentages for high, medium, and low percentage shots.
As they describe it, AdSv%:
Adjusts for the fact that some teams give up more high-quality shots, while others give up more low-quality shots. This is the weighted-average of SvPctHigh, SvPctMed, and SvPctLow, where the weights correspond to the league-wide percentage of shots from each of those areas. In other words, this is a goalies save percentage if they faced a league average proportion of shots from each of the three shooting zones (high, medium, and low probability of success).
By adjusting save percentage to correct for the strength or weakness of a team’s defensive play, this analytic isolates goalie performance.
And the results are intriguing.
Borrowing entirely from War-On-Ice’s work (original graph here), here is the top-eleven list for AdSv% among NHL starters (more than 1200 minutes played, or approximately 20 games). Why a top-eleven?
Because if the list stopped at ten, King Henrik would be left off the list entirely.
*These stats are drawn from five-on-five play, which eliminates the effect of a team’s strong or awful penalty killing units
The analytics for goalies provide a number of key takeaways:
– The Predators, Penguins, and Senators are allowing lower-than-average high percentage shot attempts. That means that Rinne, Anderson, and Fleury face fewer “dangerous” shots. Their AdSv% numbers are therefore lower than their actual Sv%.
– Steve Mason, Cory Schneider, and Jonathan Bernier are providing mediocre/awful teams with high-quality goaltending.
– Based on AdSv%, Michael Hutchinson appears to be for real. Same with Devan Dubnyk.
– Lundqvist’s AdSv% and Sv% are virutally identical. The Rangers’ netminder faces average shot quality and ranks outside the NHL’s top-ten in this key analytic.
– Carey Price is elite. He owns the second-highest Sv% and the highest AdSv%.
Habs are 20-5-2 in their last 27 games. Not always pretty but tough to argue with the sample size. #TSN690 pic.twitter.com/Uel8FpXmvc
— Sean Coleman (@ColemanMTL) February 19, 2015
Carey Price’s performance has begun to garner a fair amount of attention.
In an article for The Hockey News after the Canadiens hung on for a victory against the Dallas Stars, Ryan Kennedy wrote:
Montreal won another game that it probably should not have last night, beating Dallas 3-2 thanks to 40 saves from Carey Price. The Habs put just 26 shots on net against Kari Lehtonen and took two penalties in the waning minutes of the contest while protecting a one-goal lead…Does Carey Price deserve some Hart Trophy love this year? It’s rare for a goaltender to win the award, since the Vezina Trophy is seen as the ultimate netminder accolade, but Price has some compelling arguments on his side.
And Kennedy isn’t alone. Greg Wyshynski from Yahoo! Sports adds:
Price’s problem is that people think the Canadiens are a good hockey team because they made the postseason last year…And so the only way Price gets Hart love is if the Canadiens are reconsidered as a mediocre team propped up by its goalie. And to that end, Price has a compelling case.
As Wyshynski suggests, the Montreal Canadiens aren’t as strong as some fans believe.
The Canadiens have posted a team Corsi of 49.5% (21st best in the NHL), the league’s fifth-highest rate of defensive zone faceoff percentage (34.26%), and a middle-of-the-pack offense (106 goals this season, ranked 13th in the NHL). Despite these middle/ugly stats, Price has been “red-hot.”
Red-hot @CP0031 has the @CanadiensMTL on top in the East. The Habs' netminder is the Player of the Week! http://t.co/VODMKFFyAQ
— NHLPA (@NHLPA) February 18, 2015
Although Henrik Lundqvist remains a good starting goalie, advanced stats show that he is sliding out of the elite group at the goaltending position.
In his place, younger stars like Carey Price have emerged. If Price’s surge continues, he might will his Canadiens through a long playoff run again this season.
And, who knows. Perhaps a Hart awaits him as well.
What do you think, goalie fans? Is it time to oust Lundqvist from any discussion of the NHL’s elite stoppers? Is there any question that Carey Price is the league’s best goalie?