a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Wednesday, 2 November 2011

11/02/11 Adjusting Success by Save Percentage

It's time to make an honest appraisal of the Oilers' goaltending to this point and discuss how much it really has to do with the team's success. Khabibulin and Dubnyk have been great, but these two puckstoppers can't possibly keep it up. Will the fortunes of the Oilers follow suit?

Let's start with Khabibulin. So far this season he's faced 199 shots and he's stopped all but 8 of them. That's good for a 0.960 Save Percentage, which is an incredible number. However, over the course of his career Khabibulin has averaged a SV% of 0.908, which is a fairly pedestrian number. We can expect his play to drop off at some point if only because of fatigue, and he'll probably end the season closer to his career average when it comes to the percentage of shots he stops. At 0.908, Khabibulin would have allowed around 18 goals in these first seven games, which is more than double what he has actually allowed so far this year.

Even if Khabibulin was stopping shots at his best sustained rate over a full season (0.923 SV% in 63 games in 1998-99), he'd still have allowed somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 goals so far.

What that means is that at best the Oilers have allowed 7 fewer goals than they should have thus far, and at worst they have allowed 10 fewer. That would make for team totals no better than 25 Goals For and 25 Goals Against, and probably closer to 25 GF and 28 GA.

And Dubnyk? Devan Dubnyk has a career SV% of 0.909, but this season he's flying high at 0.938, having allowed 8 goals on 129 shots. If he was closer to his career total SV%, Dubnyk would have allowed 12 goals in his 4 starts. Last year, Dubnyk had a SV% of 0.916 over 35 games, which is a respectable and sustainable total. With that type of efficiency he would have allowed around 11 goals this year. Of course, Dubnyk does have the potential to improve, but a 0.938 SV% over a whole season would put him in the conversation for the Vezina, and it's unlikely that he'll be able to maintain that kind of performance.

With these adjusted numbers taken together, the Oilers probably should have allowed 14 more goals than they have this season, if their netminders were playing at the level of their career average. That means they would still have 25 GF, but they would have allowed 32 GA (including game winning shootout tallies). It's pretty obvious that the Oilers' record would be significantly worse than 7-2-2 with numbers like that. This early win streak has been fun, and it's shown a glimpse into the future, but the future may still be far off unless the team can make more strides in a hurry.

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