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(In which yer boy RL, PUCK LISTS, in which he arbitrarily lists hockey things.)
The start to the 2016-17 NHL season has been a weird one.
Goalscoring was incredibly high to start the year, but has since settled down significantly. As a result, there are a lot of goaltenders out there with save percentages way below what you’d expect them to have as guys who get paid to stop pucks professionally.
Through Tuesday’s games, 20 goalies who had appeared in at least one game had save percentages below .900, which is kind of unbelievable. And sure, a lot of them played only a game or three, and some didn’t even get full games in. So things are a little weird right now for those guys, simply because of sample size.
The same is true to a lesser extent of the nine goalies with at least five appearances who are also below .900, and the names on the list are often shocking.
So let’s just have a quick look at those performances and determine how likely they are to rebound in a big way. This comes with the caveat that you wouldn’t expect most goalies to have a save percentage beginning with an “8” for most of the season, but some guys are likely to get into the .910s with ease. Others very much are not.
9 – Michal Neuvirth, 6 GP, .865
Goaltending has, shall we say, been a problem in Philadelphia. Neuvirth and battery mate Steve Mason have the two worst save percentages in the league among goalies with at least five appearances.
Both are considerably better than the numbers they’ve posted, which is obvious to everyone. Neuvirth is one of the better career backups in the league, with a career .913 save percentage. And while it’s worth noting that he seems to be pretty streaky in terms of “sometimes he sucks for a month straight” he’s going to get back to where he should be, in the .910 range like all the other good backups in the league.
8 – Steve Mason, 8 GP, .878
Mason, too, at least has the history of being subaverage prior to his arrival in Philadelphia. Over 232 games with Columbus, he was a .903 goalie. And while you can’t just throw out five years of data because you don’t like it, you also have to acknowledge that in 181 games with the Flyers — even including this latest spell of putrid play — he’s .920.
The answer to what Steve Mason “is” probably falls somewhere in the middle here, but I’d lean more toward him slightly above average (in the .918 range perhaps) than slightly below it. As with Neuvirth, I don’t anticipate goaltending being something that holds back the Flyers long-term. They have two guys who can flat-out play.
7 – Cam Ward, 6 GP, .882
This guy, on the other hand…
It was just three seasons ago that Ward was an .898 goaltender across 30 games. Thirty. The past two seasons, playing 50-plus each time, he was in the .909 and .910 range, which is also not good enough, but y’know.
Everyone knows what Ward is: a guy who had 250 unbelievable games over four seasons half a decade ago, and also had one great Cup run. He wasn’t good before 2008, and he wasn’t good after 2012. So while .882 is a bit low these days, I don’t anticipate it getting a whole hell of a lot better either.
The guy is done.
6 – Louis Domingue, 7 GP, .887
It’s tough to evaluate what anyone “should” look like behind a team this bad, but let’s be honest here and say Domingue is no great shakes. He still only has 53 NHL games played, but he’s not exactly a league-average goalie in the first place.
He’s 24 and his AHL career numbers are pretty bad as well. He couldn’t even clear .915 in junior. Again, his numbers will go up just because they have to, but Domingue is not an NHL-caliber starting goaltender and playing behind a rotten roster isn’t going to help him look good.
5 – Brian Elliott, 8 GP, .891
No doubt about it: Elliott was horrendous to start the year, conceding 14 goals — FOURTEEN! — on just 87 shots in three games to start the year.
Since then he’s mostly been very good: .921 even including another bad effort against Chicago on Tuesday (in which he gave up four on 21). Chicago still has the talent level to do that to a goalie on occasion. But let’s put it this way: Over the previous five seasons, Elliott was .925, and while I think it’ll be tough to get to that level under Glen Gulutzan, his being above league average at the end of the year is something I would bet heavily on.
4 – Ben Bishop, 7 GP, .891
Same for Bishop. He’s a career .920 goalie entering the season. The team in front of him is really good. I’m willing to chalk all of Tampa’s early struggles up to bad luck and leave it at that. They’ll be where they always are at the end of the year, and so will Bishop.
3 – Freddy Andersen, 8 GP, .891
Much has obviously been made of Andersen’s struggles, and for good reason: He was very bad to start the year. But then in his last three games, he went .944 and the Leafs won twice. So that’s pretty good.
His career number entering the season was .918, and I don’t know if that’s a number that’s achievable based on Toronto’s quality on the blue line. With that having been said, even if he gets into the low .910s, the Leafs might be in pretty good shape. I think that’s doable for him.
2 – Antti Niemi, 5 GP, .893
Niemi went .905 last year, and the Dallas blue line got worse this year. If he’s in the same ballpark for last year’s number, I think that’s a decent place to land for this guy. Not for his team, obviously. A .905 goalie is awful, especially if you’re paying — good lord — $4.5 million for him.
Man, this goaltending situation really has blown up in Jim Nill’s face, huh? A true disaster.
1 – Jaroslav Halak, 6 GP, .898
As I said in the Countdown yesterday, I think Halak is demonstrably better than this. If his trade demand holds up, it’s not to the Islanders’ benefit that he’ll improve, but he’s going to improve. While some goalies still in the NHL are just about .898 quality, Halak ain’t one of ’em folks.