Evaluating A New Goaltending Tandem

With Jhonas Enroth and the Toronto Maple Leafs coming to terms on a one-year, $750,000 contract on Monday, the Leafs seemingly etched their goaltending duo in stone for the 2016-2017 season. Popular opinion would have the new combination of Enroth and Frederik Andersen as an upgrade over last year’s initial tandem of James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier, and Leafs supporters generally seem to be breathing a sigh of relief over not having to carry an untested prospect or project goaltender as their #2 into the new season.

That said, we would all be remiss if we didn’t at least attempt to take this view from anecdote to evidence-based argument, so let’s take a dive into some of the non-traditional metrics that may give us a better idea of what to expect in transitioning from Reimer and Bernier to Andersen and Enroth.

Speaking of tradition, what you will not find here is Goals Against Average. GAA is a team stat and should never, ever be used to evaluate a goaltender. Neither will you find raw save percentage. While far better than GAA, it does not account for unequal weights of special teams play, nor does it even begin to account for unequal weights of shot quality.

What we will use, though, are Even-Strength 5v5 statistics, broken down by Corsica’s danger tiers (explained by Emmanuel Perry, creator of Corsica, here), along with Adjusted Goals Saved Above Average per 60 Minutes (learn more here) and Above Average Appearances Percentage, both methods of calculation developed by Nick Mercadante of Hockey Graphs and Blueshirt Banter. These metrics will give us a better understanding of goaltender performance in (somewhat) equal game situations.

Let’s first look at the table immediately below, which takes a cumulative view of the previous three seasons:

2013-2016 Even-Strength 5v5
 Shots on Goal 

Against

 Regressed 

LD Sv%

 Regressed 

MD Sv%

 Regressed 

HD Sv%

 adjGSAA/60 
Above Average

Appearances %

Frederik Andersen   2559
97.7248
93.6081
80.3276
0.1342
56.0000
Jhonas Enroth 2182
97.7958
92.2980
80.9586
-0.0262
52.1277
James Reimer 2550
97.5741
91.9666
81.8165
-0.0414
55.8559
Jonathan Bernier 3562
97.6074
91.3043
81.8424
-0.1238
47.6821
League Average 97.8791 92.3564 80.8630 0.000
52.9760

Don’t be alarmed if what pops out at first glance is the use of “regressed” save percentages. This is an attempt to find a goaltender’s “true” performance level by artificially expanding a small sample size and tying it to league average performance; goaltenders with lower shot counts will regress further toward that average, while goaltenders with a larger sample will shift less, as we can feel more confident about their actual base statistics.

So what do we see from this? First, from 2013-2016, James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier were very similar, statistically-speaking. Both were below average with regard to low- and medium-danger shots against, but outperformed the league average by a full percent against high-danger attempts. Where they greatly differ is in their game-by-game performance; Reimer will give you more Above Average Appearances (defined as a game where adjGSAA > 0) than Bernier. At the risk of oversimplification, you could say that he’s more reliable.

While Jhonas Enroth’s performances are cut from the same mold as Reimer and Bernier (below average against LD and MD, above against HD), Frederik Andersen is a different beast entirely. Still slightly below average against low-danger (to the tune of roughly one more goal allowed per 1000 shots) and high-danger, Andersen excels against medium-danger attempts, enough so to pull his total adjGSAA/60 into above average territory (0.1342), slotting in just behind Brian Elliott (0.1595), Braden Holtby (0.1580), and Jonathan Quick (0.1449). In fact, among the 33 goaltenders with a minimum of 100 games played over the last three seasons, Andersen ranks 10th in adjGSAA/60.

If three seasons of data and/or regressed percentages aren’t exactly your cup of tea, the next table and set of charts may be for you. Here we have the same set of metrics, just using raw save percentages, for the 2015-2016 season only, and we can see just what small sample sizes do to our data.

2015-2016 Even-Strength 5v5
 Shots on Goal 

Against

Raw

LD Sv%

Raw

MD Sv%

Raw

HD Sv%

 adjGSAA/60 
Above Average

Appearances %

Frederik Andersen   824   97.0588     92.9889     84.3575   0.1202
58.1395
Jhonas Enroth 321 98.7342 90.6250 86.5672 0.2652
68.7500
James Reimer 888 97.2851 92.8571 87.3494 0.2801 60.0000
Jonathan Bernier 894 96.5675 89.0071 81.7143 -0.5410
42.1053
League Average 97.9129 92.5115 81.3294 0.000
53.4065

Basically, things go haywire. Andersen, Enroth, and Reimer have high-danger save percentages shoot through the roof, Bernier’s low- and medium-danger save percentage crash completely, and the only thing that really stays consistent from a three-year view to one year is Andersen’s end product – adjGSAA/60 and Above Average Appearances Percentage. If you’re more of a visual learner, take a look at the SAVE Chart comparisons (created by yours truly, available here) of each goaltender for this past season:

*note: SAVE uses data from the now-defunct War-On-Ice, which defines danger zones differently than Corsica’s danger tiers

Andersen-Reimer Comp

Enroth-Bernier Comp

Again, with the exception of Andersen, we see a set of goaltenders that typically hang around league average bouncing off the walls. It’s easy to look at this season and jump all over Jonathan Bernier for being far below average, yet given such a small sample and similar three-year performances, the upswings for Enroth and Reimer could have just as likely been Bernier-like downswings.

But, since the entire point of this piece is to evaluate what Toronto has in its new goaltenders as a pair, let’s take one last look at last season’s combined performances for Andersen-Enroth and Reimer-Bernier:

2015-2016 Even-Strength 5v5
 Shots on Goal 

Against

Raw

 LD Sv% 

Raw

 MD Sv% 

Raw

 HD Sv% 

 adjGSAA/60 
Above Average

Appearances %

Andersen/Enroth  1145
 97.5564 
 92.3706 
 84.9594 
0.1605
61.0170
Reimer/Bernier 1782
 96.9283 
 90.9253 
 84.4575 
-0.1208
51.2821
League Average 97.9129 92.5115 81.3294 0.0000 53.4065

Sample size is still far too small to reduce variance in the raw save percentages, but the tandems start to shake out as we may expect from the three-year data, if only in terms of relative performance.

So what can we take away from this? While the deeper numbers leave some room for opinion to be injected into the Andersen-Enroth vs. Reimer/Bernier argument, signing Jhonas Enroth gives the Maple Leafs far more security in net than they had before inking him, when they had, at best, a replacement-level goaltender as their #2. It’s also more likely than not that the Leafs have upgraded at the goaltender position, based on a larger, regressed sample size that points (albeit weakly) toward Andersen being an improvement from Reimer, and Enroth being an improvement from Bernier. As we’ve seen, though, one-year swings can wreak havoc, and it would be wise for both Leafs management and the fanbase to remain patient while Andersen and Enroth acclimate to their new surroundings.

  • Gary Empey

    Perhaps a stupid question.

    How does he match up with Carey Price?

    Also I understand why one would take out the power play/PK stats to produce a clearer picture. Do you analyze how well a goalie handles the power play separately, or just leave that totally out of the mix?

      • Gary Empey

        Thanks. I had a look. Andersen sits at 9th best goalie in the league on that chart.

        The chart also shows him ahead of some highly rated tenders like Talbot, Luongo, Varlamov, Fleury, Rask, Bishop, Miller, Bobrovsky, Howard, Ward.

        Certainly a good reason to be optimistic.

        Naturally all long standing Leafs fans will have to see it before they believe it…….

        The good news though is all Leafs fans have extra patience with our goalies….. Usually about halfway into the first period before we start getting on their case.

        Bernier being the exception. Fans usually started on him during the warmup just to settle his nerves.

  • Gary Empey

    I saw Andersen in the playoff series against Winnipeg. Anaheim didn’t look so great but Andersen was .926, .966, .886 and .926. He was a big reason the Ducks won.

    I think the Leafs have a good one here. A guy that can win a playoff series when his team isn’t quite at their peak.

    • Gary Empey

      I think that is what impressed Lamoriello. I remember Lou’s quote when asked:

      “whenever you have the opportunity to acquire a goaltender who has proven to have success in the playoffs, is at the prime age, has the reputation on and off the ice that he has, and the players love playing in front of him…. I don’t know how you cannot try to acquire a goaltender like this,”

      When asked about the five year at five million contract… ” I never thought about the contract. I just knew he was the guy I wanted”

      Andersen gave up four UFA years as part of this deal.

      Let’s not forget the reason Andersen even become available.

      A number of factors conspired to end the Andersen’s tenure in Anaheim. Not only were the Ducks an organization with an internal budget, but they already had 22-year-old John Gibson on a team-friendly contract that carries a $2.3-million AAV for the next three seasons.

      With Andersen in line for a raise and the Ducks only able to protect one of those goalies in an expansion draft next June, they had to make a choice.

    • gibson was a big reason why the ducks lost a lot of those playoff games. scoring was a major issue but gibson was terrible. andersen should have played over him in the playoffs 100%. boudreau signed his fate with gibson.

  • Gary Empey

    Not sure if it’s available, but it would be interesting to also see the shot location percentage distribution between the 3 Shot Zones for each goalie. Though, I’m suspecting that this would be heavily skewed for Reimer/Bernier given the coaching and systems overhauls between Wilson/Carlyle/Babcock).

    • 2013-2016

      LD/MD/HD

      Andersen – 41.6/35.9/22.5

      Enroth – 43.5/35.4/21.1

      Reimer – 48.5/31.0/20.5

      Bernier – 45.0/36.0/19.0

      2015-2016

      Andersen – 45.4/32.9/21.7

      Enroth – 49.2/29.9/20.9

      Reimer – 49.8/31.5/18.7

      Bernier – 48.9/31.5/19.6

      Reimer’s breakdown for Toronto only in 15-16 is 48.7/31.9/19.4