Why not Gustavsson?

Cam Charron
January 09 2012 12:47PM


(Via Pawel Dwulit at the Canadian Press)

Toronto goaltending is a weird thing. It's pretty well been established that Toronto haven't had a reliable #1 starter since Ed Belfour and attempts to fix this via trades for Andrew Raycroft and Vesa Toskala horribly backfired.

This season, Toronto are the 22nd best team in the NHL in overall save percentage but are actually the 13th best team with even strength goaltending according to Behind The Net. Unfortunately, the team's overall goals against total (3.10) reflects more the overall team save percentage than that at even strength, due to a well-publicized brutal penalty kill.

On my own, I don't have the information necessary to properly evaluate the Leafs PK, but I do have the means to compare the two Leafs goaltenders this year. After a strong second half of last season, James Reimer came into the season as the opening day starter, but after taking a hit from Brian Gionta at a game in Montreal earlier this season and subsequently knocked-out with upper body injury-like symptoms, he's come back and played less than what he had been previous.

But out of nowhere, the Leafs have got help from an unfamiliar friend: Jonas Gustavsson, who came into this season with an underwhelming .909 even strength save percentage and a quality start** record of just 35.6%—only 21 of the 59 times he'd taken to the net this season and been blown-up 15.3% of times.

**(A quality start is a Hockey Prospectus statistic for goaltenders that is more reliable than goaltender wins for predicting future success. A goalie gets a quality start if he stops 91.3% of shots in a game or more, or allows 2 or fewer goals and stops 88.5% of shots. The cousin to the quality start, the blown-up rate, created by Thomas Drance at our sister website Canucks Army, measures starts where a goalie fails to stop 85% of shots, or allows 5 or more goals despite facing fewer than 40 shots.)

This season, though, the trend has reverse. After earning the first three starts in the new year, Gustavsson and the Leafs have won all three, which is good enough for Ron Wilson. But check out how the numbers have shaken up this year:

  EVSV% QS% BU%
Reimer 0.935 37.5% 25.0%
Gustavsson 0.911 52.9% 11.8%

(Numbers come from NHL.com stat pages and game logs)

Not only has Gustavsson earned more quality starts than Reimer this season, but he also hasn't put up a start so bad that he doesn't give the Leafs a chance to win, which has been Reimer's downfall. A lot of this is penalty kill luck, after all, Reimer is still performing much better at 5-on-5. So what's the overall difference between Gustavsson's success and Reimer's failings?

  PKSV%
Gustavsson 0.840
Reimer 0.768

I am absolutely not convinced that penalty killing save percentage is a reflective quality upon the goaltender, but with the Leafs fortunes on any given night teetering with how well the penalty kill is playing, it shouldn't shock us that Gustavsson's play a man down has really contributed to his quality start record.

Not necessarily agreeing with the "win and you're in" mentality that Ron Wilson is preaching to his goaltenders, it at least re-assures me that Gustavsson has got it done with a pair of quality starts in a row. The healthy competition isn't hurting the Leafs too much right now, but I have to think that Reimer's record improves through the season.

But the fact that Gustavsson has yet to allow five goals in a game this season is indicative of something. Maybe he's turned a corner, maybe it's just fluke over a small sample size.

UPDATE: The fact that Gustavsson has yet to allow five goals in a game this season is actually indicative of the fact I can't count. I updated the chart to include the games I overlooked. I will add, though, that a 12% rate is a little less than league average when it comes to BU%.

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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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#1 BlindSight
January 09 2012, 12:55PM
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What about goal support?

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#2 VRN
January 09 2012, 01:06PM
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@BlindSight

what about goal support? if anything, getting more goals should have led to score effects (other teams attacking more).

the fact is, Gus has played well enough this season to win games, and isn't as most people assume, getting blown up every other game.

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#3 Bower Power
January 09 2012, 01:39PM
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Gustavsson's game against Boston. 5 GA on 39 SA (Final: 6-3) http://www.hockey-reference.com/boxscores/201111300TOR.html

Game v. VAN: 5 GA on 36 SA. (Final: 5-3) http://www.hockey-reference.com/boxscores/201112170TOR.html

And you didn't mention whether Blown Up has a TOI requirement, but if it doesn't - he came into the MTL game in relief after the dirty cheap shot to Reimer's head, and posted sub-.850 in 41:23 TOI. http://www.hockey-reference.com/boxscores/201110220MTL.html He also played 24:45 against Boston and allowed 2 GA on 6 SA (.667), but I don't remember if he started or backed up, if it makes a difference. http://www.hockey-reference.com/boxscores/201111050TOR.html

So that would be either two or four "blown up" in 20 GP (GP, of course, includes relief games), meaning he either has a 10% or a 20% BU%, depending on whether or not there is, in fact, a TOI requirement for the stat.

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#4 Chemmy
January 09 2012, 01:51PM
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Also, if BU% includes games with 5 goals on less than 35 shots, Gus has two games with 5 goals on 36 and 39 shots. Your criteria are what they are but that's a fine hair to split.

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#6 Neil Meneses
January 09 2012, 02:31PM
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@VRN

Goal support. Last year Gus couldn't get any goal support, and it was used against him - "The team is timid and is scared to attack when he's in net."

This year he gets goal support and..."it's not Gustavsson who is playing good, it's the team around him."

No offence intended Blindsight, I know you didn't say these things. Just using your comment as a springboard.

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#7 Pension Plan Puppets
January 09 2012, 05:53PM
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@Neil Meneses

Yeah I made the first argument last year so I am willing to say I think the team is playing really well in front of him BECAUSE they have confidence in him.

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#8 Neil Meneses
January 10 2012, 10:27AM
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@Pension Plan Puppets

Cool. Because if anything the team seems to be "playing tentatively" in front of Reimer this year

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