Jonas Gustavsson: Not Even Close To Being The Answer

Jonathan Willis
January 10 2012 12:58PM

For probably the first time in his NHL career, Jonas Gustavsson is starting to turn some heads. He entered the league with high expectations – as many of these undrafted free agents do now, as various teams line up to bid for their services – but never really lived up to them, failing to take the starting job despite a constant state of flux in the Toronto net during his time with the team.

Now Gustavsson has the starting job, and looks like he knows what to do with it after posting an 8-3-0 record over his last 11 games.

Let’s look at Gustavsson’s numbers a little deeper, though. Below are his even-strength and penalty-kill numbers for those last 11 games, broken down individually.

Even-Strength

Game Saves Shots Save Percentage
Washington 30 31 0.968
Tampa Bay 24 24 1.000
Dallas 23 26 0.885
Anaheim 20 21 0.952
Boston 28 32 0.875
N.Y. Rangers 24 25 0.960
Vancouver 29 34 0.853
Florida 12 13 0.923
Tampa Bay 17 20 0.850
Winnipeg 21 21 1.000
Detroit 36 39 0.923
Last 11 264 286 0.923

Penalty Kill

Game Saves Shots Save Percentage
Washington 9 9 1.000
Tampa Bay 3 4 0.750
Dallas 3 3 1.000
Anaheim 6 7 0.857
Boston 6 7 0.857
N.Y. Rangers 6 7 0.857
Vancouver 2 2 1.000
Florida 1 2 0.500
Tampa Bay 3 3 1.000
Winnipeg 3 3 1.000
Detroit 1 1 1.000
Last 11 43 48 0.896

What do those numbers mean?

First of all, a 0.923 SV% at even-strength is pretty good. Looking at the 30 goaltenders with the most games played in the NHL right now, it would rank 17th – and mid-range starter territory is a place we haven’t seen Gustavsson be very often. The penalty-killing number is far more impressive, however – a 0.896 SV% on the penalty-kill would be the 9th-best number (tied with Tim Thomas) among the NHL’s 30 most used goalies. Given the Leafs’ penalty-killing woes over the last millennia, it’s also precisely the sort of thing that’s likely to help the team win games.

How do these numbers compare with what Gustavsson has done in the past?

Career Numbers

Time Period Even-Strength SV% Penalty Kill SV%
Last 11 0.923 0.896
Prior 9 0.893 0.783
2010-11 0.910 0.784
2009-10 0.910 0.851
Career 0.910 0.833

At even-strength, we’re seeing some balance return to Gustavsson’s season. In 2009-10, Gustavsson was a 0.910 SV% goalie at even-strength. In 2010-11, Gustavsson was a 0.910 SV% goalie at even-strength. After this latest run, in 2011-12 Gustavsson is a 0.911 SV% goalie at even-strength. There’s a trend here, and I think it makes it pretty clear where the smart money on Gustavsson lies: bet on him being a 0.910 SV% goalie in even-strength situations. Game to game, week to week, that number will fluctuate up (as it has done lately) or down (as it did early in the year) but it seems likely to orbit around that central axis. A 0.910 SV% would rank 24th among the 30 most-used NHL goalies, ahead mostly just of guys who are either a) terrible or b) having terrible seasons.

On the penalty kill, we probably don’t have enough data to accurately say what Gustavsson’s true talent level is. What we do know is that the Leafs’ PK has stunk forever, and that Gustavsson’s PK SV% has stunk since he entered the league. I also know that I would be be far more comfortable predicting Gustavsson’s current run of PK brilliance to end soon than I would be predicting it to continue.

Put it all together, and this current run seems highly likely to be nothing more than a hot streak. James Reimer has a 0.935 SV% at even-strength this season, and a 0.768 SV% on the penalty-kill after posting a 0.933 SV% and 0.855 SV% in those situations, respectively, one year ago. I have no compunctions at all about saying that Reimer’s likely to bounce back, or that Reimer’s almost certainly the far better goaltender.

It’s hard to blame Ron Wilson for wanting to ride the hot hand in the short-term. In the long-term, however, Gustavsson is certainly not the answer for the Leafs.

P.S. Other takes on Gustavsson are worth reading, and I’d point to two from yesterday in particular – Cam Charron’s and James Mirtle’s.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Kent Wilson
January 10 2012, 01:35PM
Trash it!
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Is a .910 ES SV% even replacement level?

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#2 Last Minute of Play
January 10 2012, 01:40PM
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I analyzed the performance of all Leaf goalies at 4-on-5 and determined that Gustavsson is marginally better than Reimer, so far. From that I can conclude (like you did) that Reimer's PK Sv% is likely to rebound while Gustavsson's is likely to fall.

Note that I used 4-on-5 numbers since they're probably a more accurate indicator of 'true skill' than full PK numbers because of variance in 3-on-5 and 3-on-4 time and success on a goalie-by-goalie basis.

My full Leaf goalie PK analysis is at http://wp.me/p21F5R-2J

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