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.
* – 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:
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.
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.
|2013 SAA||2014 SAA|
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.