LGD – Game 57: Senators @ Leafs – Examining Jonathan Bernier’s season

I don’t have the ‘Key Statistics’ denoting the differences between Toronto and Ottawa tonight, in part because as we’ve seen with the Leafs, the laws of mathematics do not apply*. What I do have is a pretty fun graph looking at Jonathan Bernier’s season. He’s had a pretty historic run so far, and I’d go out of my way to say it’s one of the best seasons by a Leafs goaltender of all-time.

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* – Also, I’m hungover and kind of lazy. Read on!

One of the stats over at Hockey Reference is “saves above average”, which essentially compares a goalie’s save percentage to the league average and converts it to a number of goals saved. Currently, Bernier is at 15.39, meaning he’s stopped a little over 15 goals more than an average goaltender would through his 40 games. That’s significant. Every extra 5-to-6 goals is worth a win, so Bernier’s been worth about six points in the standings better than an average goaltender.

Where does that put him in the annals of Leaf history? Here are Leafs starters (leaders in GP) since the start of the Pat Quinn era:

  Year GP GSAA
Belfour 2003 62 24.55
Joseph 2001 68 21.48
Joseph 2000 63 19.26
Bernier 2014 40 15.39
Reimer 2013 33 11.64
Belfour 2004 59 10.07
Reimer 2011 37 8.79
Joseph 1999 67 4.48
Joseph 2002 51 -2.38
Toskala 2008 66 -9.3
Gustavsson 2010 42 -10.31
Gustavsson 2012 42 -12.83
Belfour 2006 49 -13.27
Raycroft 2007 72 -22.02
Toskala 2009 53 -27.09

Bernier is on pace for 22.54 saves above average, in about 58 or 59 starts. Only Ed Belfour in 2003 has had a better season than Bernier. Bernier could still improve, or he could regress closer to the mean, or whatever. Goaltenders are notoriously difficult to predict. Bernier, though, has subtracted more goals from opponents’ totals than all but three goalies in the NHL so far this season: Ben Bishop, Ryan Miller and Tuukka Rask.

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For the record, James Reimer has had a tough stretch and actually fallen below league average. While Bernier’s statistics are probably better than he is as a goalie, and Reimer’s are worse than he is as a goalie, I think we’re at the point where the difference between the two is more than noise. Bernier has been decidedly the better goalie this season, which is the gamble that Dave Nonis made when he made that deal in June.

Here’s a graph showing Bernier’s saves above average by game:

Other than a dip from between November 21 to December 14 (games 15 to 23 on the chart) he’s been strong all year. Just 13 of his 40 games he’s stopped fewer pucks than an average netminder would, and seven of those 13 games were in that unfortunate stretch.

Here’s the other thing though… how difficult is it to predict the next game based on the previous game? The chart looks very wonky and one game seems to be completely independent of the last one. When we point to how excellent Bernier has been in net this season, let’s remind ourselves that we really don’t know which way goaltenders will go.

And the Ottawa Senators, the opponent tonight, know this very well:

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  2013 SAA 2014 SAA
Craig Anderson 19.63 -6.12
Robin Lehner 10.34 4.91
Ben Bishop 4.14  
Total 34.11 -1.21

The result is that the Senators have gone from a team comfortably in the playoff race to a team that started poorly and only just got into the playoff picture this week, climbing as high up as 8th but falling out after Detroit’s win a night ago. The Eastern playoff race is actually a very interesting picture right now, with the hot teams taking over the playoff spots, and then losing them once they stop streaking. With eight teams in serious contention for the Wild Card spots (plus spots 2 and 3 in the Metropolitan) there’s always going to be a hot team or two:

So Leafs and Ottawa, from the Air Canada Centre (the one in Toronto, not the one in Ottawa) tonight at 7 Eastern. I’m catching a WHL game, so I’m leaving the post-game in the dependable hands of our new kid Steven Tzemis. Enjoy.

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  • whichonespink

    I don’t agree with these make believe statistics I never heard of and the analysis here. Reimer is clearly the better goalie. He battles, has more heart and a better clutch goalie

    • whichonespink

      As much as I would like this to be true,there is no evidence that he is a better clutch goalie. Also, both goalies battle, that’s part of the nature of hockey. Finally, heart doesn’t really affect a goalie’s performance but it’s probably true that Reimer has more heart.

    • Kanuunankuula

      I agree, Reimer is the better goalie by far, he has had to fight his way to where he is today. Nothing was handed to him he earned his spot as the #1 Goalie. but again due to being solely blamed for last years game 7 lost he’s been demoralized and left to rot on the bench. I will never forget Randy’s comment to the medialast year “If you could get the best goalie, what would you do? Well first of all Reimer was and is the best goalie so Randy and Nonis defeated this purpose and money for something they didn’t need…they needed to spent the money on defense that’s this teams real problem….But this team,Nonis,Randy have had it out for Reims ever since and they really paid him back this year by destroying his whole career in a short time….he now has to start all over again and battle his way from the bottom up to even get anything back. But that’s ok Beriner is here to save the day….

      It shows the heart and team manship Reims has for his sport, to go out after the game and congradulate the man who has taken away his job..how many of you could do that?..Reims always was a team player, Bernier is only out for himself…and in time he too will be burned out or with any luck injured and maybe just maybe Reimer will get his chance again to take back his job….
      Reimer is the best shoot-out goalie, and has improved alot…but after all that is happening hes only human…and faith is all that keeps him strong…..We Love you Reims…don’t give up your talent will come to be if not here than with a team that will give you the respect and support you need…and than Reims will be back….

  • Kanuunankuula

    What about Optimus Reims’ shootout wins? Not looking up the stats I feel he’s pretty goddamn solid on shootouts which I think are the ultimate clutch-situations in hockey?

  • Kanuunankuula

    I do not think any player should be discriminated on the size of their heart , after all does anybody care what the size of any of their other organs are?

  • Kanuunankuula




    They’re both good goaltenders but Bernier’s stolen a few more games than Reimer.

  • Kanuunankuula

    Tyler Bozak steals puck, sets up Kessel for game winning goal.

    Bozak breaks up sure goal, and then scores the big cushion goal to seal the win.

    Eat your hearts out haters.

    Bozak 2 big points last night. +3.

    No wonder Charron is not blogging.


    That’s 7 in 8 games since that Jan 16 blog of regression via Charron’s graphs.