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Goaltending Around The League

The difference between playoff and non-playoff goaltending - what does it take to make the postseason?

Matt Murray came up big for the Penguins, not only in the playoffs but in the regular season as well.
Matt Murray came up big for the Penguins, not only in the playoffs but in the regular season as well.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Ron Francis recently made the statement that he was close to making a decision about whether to re-sign Cam Ward.  Now seems a good time to take a glimpse at goaltending around the league and try to make comparisons.

How did the Hurricanes' goaltending stand up to the rest of the league last year?

The chart below shows the regular season save percentages of the goalies and teams that made the playoffs versus the ones who did not.  Once again, I am using save percentage as a measuring stick because I feel that is the best way to compare goalies.  The GAA stat can be skewed in favor of goalies who face fewer shots.

Stanley Cup winning goalie Matt Murray only played 13 regular season games for the Penguins, but in those 13 games he went 9-2-1 with a .930 save percentage.  Those are obviously huge numbers.

regular season
playoff teams goalies save %
Pittsburgh Marc-Andre Fleury .921
Matt Murray .930
Tampa Bay Ben Bishop .926
Andrei Vasilevskiy .910
Washington Brayden Holtby .922
Philipp Grubauer .918
New York Islanders Thomas Greiss .925
Jaroslav Halak .919
Florida Panthers Roberto Luongo .922
Al Montoya .919
New York Rangers Henrik Lundqvist .920
Antti Raanta .919
Detroit Petr Mrazek .921
Jimmy Howard .906
Philadelphia Steve Mason .918
Michal Neuvirth .924
San Jose Martin Jones .918
James Reimer .938
St. Louis Jake Allen .920
Brian Elliott .930
Dallas Antti Niemi .905
Kari Lehtonen .906
Nashville Pekka Rinne .908
Carter Hutton .918
Anaheim Frederik Andersen .919
John Gibson .920
Los Angeles Jonathan Quick .918
Jhonas Enroth .922
Chicago Corey Crawford .924
Scott Darling .915
Minnesota Devan Dubnyk .918
Darcy Kuemper .915
Non regular season
playoff teams goalies save %
Boston Tuukka Rask .915
Jonas Gustavsson .908
Buffalo Chad Johnson .920
Linus Ullmark .913
Robin Lehner .924
Carolina Cam Ward .909
Eddie Lack .901
Columbus Joonas Korpisalo .920
Sergei Bobrovsky .908
Montreal Mike Condon .903
Ben Scrivens .906
Carey Price .934
New Jersey Corey Schneider .924
Keith Kincaid .904
Ottawa Craig Anderson .916
Andrew Hammond .914
Toronto Jonathan Bernier .908
James Reimer .918
Arizona Louis Domingue .912
Mike Smith .916
Calgary Karri Ramo .909
Jonas Hiller .879
Joni Ortio .902
Colorado Semyon Varlamov .914
Calvin Pickard .922
Edmonton Cam Talbot .917
Anders Nilsson .901
Vancouver Ryan Miller .916
Jacob Markstrom .915
Winnipeg Ondrej Pavelec .904
Michael Hutchinson .907
Connor Hellebuyck .918

The first thing you notice of course is that most of the higher save percentages are on the teams who made the postseason.

It appears that to make the playoff cut, (in most cases) you need your primary goalie, or at least one of your goalies, to be at or near a save percentage of .920 or above.

There are exceptions, the biggest one being the Stars who led the league in scoring last season.  So yes, a team can out-score poor goaltending if you have the weapons to do so. But that did catch up to them in the playoffs.

On the borderline, it seems that Nashville and Minnesota made it to the postseason with average, or slightly above average goaltending.

Of the teams who did not make the playoffs, most of the goalies were below .915.

The exceptions to this include Corey Schneider, who backstopped the Devils and Calvin Pickard of the Avs.

The Sabres had a decent team save percentage of about .920, which on most teams would seem good enough to get you to the playoffs.

You can see why the Habs fell by the wayside when Carey Price went down with injury.

This is a rather simplistic way to compare goalies but there is a big difference between a goalie with a .921 save percentage versus one with a .909.  If both faced 1,000 shots, one allows 79 goals where the other allows 91.

Considering the parity in this league and with many, if not most games being decided by just one goal, the 12 goal difference means a lot.

These numbers seem to indicate that if the Hurricanes truly have the objective to make it to the playoffs next season, they need an upgrade in goaltending to do so.

With Eddie Lack already under contract, Ward is the one up for discussion unless Francis can trade Lack.

The good news with the Swede is that last year might have been just a bump, an anomaly.

In his previous year with the Canucks, he posted a .924 save percentage in 41 games started and was given credit for helping them reach the playoffs.

Why did he drop off to an abysmal .901 for Carolina?  There was some discussion about goalie coach David Marcoux trying to make him play out of the crease a bit more, to help cut down on angles.  But the goalie looked out of place and eventually went back to his old style where he said he felt more comfortable.  His numbers improved accordingly.

Cam Ward's numbers have not changed very much over recent years.  He has posted save percentages of .909, .910, .898, and .908 in the past four seasons, none of them playoff worthy.

If the Canes keep the same tandem next season, can they improve enough to give the team a legitimate shot at the playoffs?