Photo Credit: CANADIAN PRESS/DARRYL DYCK
The Vancouver Canucks are ninth in the National Hockey League in points, yet fifth in puck-possession. After a couple of years of tracking this sort of stuff, I don’t even feel it’s necessary to link all the math that shows a team’s Fenwick record is more predictive of the team’s future results than its actual win-loss record. A teams’ hockey ability isn’t best measured in how many games it wins, but in how many shots it’s able to direct towards the net versus its opponents.
What determines wins and losses after the shots have been accounted for? Voodoo, really. Sometimes they call voodoo “goaltending” and even though it’s the position played that’s the easiest to track, it’s almost impossible to predict how a goaltender will do in any given year.
There’s a rare breed of goaltender who is both elite and can consistently perform. Henrik Lundqvist is one of those goalies and Pekka Rinne is another. Both ‘tenders have managed to hide the puck-possession deficiencies of their teams for some time now.
Four times since the start of the Behind the Net era the Canucks have managed to be a top-10 team in goaltending. Boston, Florida, Montreal, Phoenix and San Jose have also managed to do this. As a result, the Canucks have generally been able to perform slightly better than their shot record would indicate.
That’s not really the case this season.
Here is the Canucks’ PDO records for each of the last five years. PDO is the simple addition of 5-on-5 shooting percentage and save percentage. It can generally expect to regress to 1.000 over the course of a long period of time:
|Shooting %||Save %||PDO|
So how come the Canucks’ PDO has been higher than one for five straight years? Their goaltending, mostly. The Canucks were world-beaters shooting the puck in the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons but that’s fallen off to a number closer to league average in the last two. The goaltending has been consistently above league average by a fair amount with the exception of 2010.
Here are Luongo’s individual even-strength save percentages in those seasons:
You can see Luongo is generally about eight points above the league average with the exception of the hiccup in 2010 where he only posted a .925. Otherwise, he’s been a top-10 goaltender in each season.
This year, Luongo is not the “starter” and while I hate to subscribe to the narrative that each team needs a No. 1 and a No. 2 goaltender, I think it’s clear that the Canucks’ better goaltender hasn’t been used as often as he ought to be. Schneider’s struggling this season, with a .920 EV SV%, about three points below the current league average, while Luongo has recorded seven quality starts in ten appearances and is right there at 8th among goaltenders with 10-or-more starts.
Unfortunately, the timeonice.com widgets we use to be able to track individual save percentage by game state isn’t up for this season. What I will direct you to is where the Canucks are struggling to win games, despite a very good shot count and shooting percentage:
|2013 EV SV%||2012 EV SV%|
I’ve heard a lot about Vancouver’s defensive “fire drill” in terms of the coverage in their own end of late. The reality is that Vancouver’s goaltending has been letting them down (after Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo both got off to an exceptionally hot start to this season), with the defenseman taking an undue proportion of the blame.
I don’t want to sound the alarm and suggest that after just 12 games we can write off Cory Schneider. He still looks like a future star to me. But knowing how important Luongo has been to the Canucks’ success, over the last few weeks I’ve been bit by the nagging theory that the Canucks are planning on trading the wrong goaltender. The blame lies mostly on the shoulders of whoever made the decision to start Schneider in Game Three against the LA Kings, which indadvertedly forced management’s hand.
You could get a better return for Schneider. He doesn’t have the long contract and he doesn’t have the no-trade clause. you’re someone who see the Canucks’ “championship window” shutting over the next two to three seasons, they should go for the trade that brings the best return and keeps in one of the most consistent goaltenders over the last five seasons. Of course, it’s pretty clear that the Canucks don’t see their championship window shutting so quickly, otherwise they’d have done more to keep guys like Ehrhoff and Salo, and probably flipped Hodgson a year ago for more immediate veteran help rather than a project…