Goalies and Voodoo Magic

Jan 29, 2014; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens (30) stops a shot during the third period against the San Jose Sharks at Rexall Place. The Oilers won 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-138256 ORIG FILE ID:  20140129_lbm_wb4_281.JPG

Without a doubt, one of the weakest links of the Oilers in 2014/2015 was the goaltending. Both Scrivens and Fasth failed to lock down the starter position, finishing the season with adjusted save percentages in the bottom five (goalies who played 20 games or more).

One thing we know about goalies is that a  lot of voodoo is involved. One season, a goalie can be terrible and the next, he’s winning games in the playoffs. One could argue that even assessing goalies involves a lot of guess work and truthiness, as a lot of factors come into play. Which team is the goalie on, how does the team do possession wise, does the team have a strong defensive core, and so forth.

I really want to believe that Scrivens can bounce back. After a good college and minor league career, he had shown well in his NHL career. Unfortunately, things went sideways this past season, but I don’t think we can write him off just yet.

To make a case, I first looked at how he measures up against the average adjusted save percentage (at even-strength) among goalies who played 20 or more games. And secondly, I looked for other goalies who may have had a rough season (or two) and bounced back.


Let’s start off with Ben Scrivens’ history.

Season Team Gm Age GP W L T/O QS% AdSv%
2011/12 TOR 12 25 12 4 5 2 0.455 91.66
2012/13 TOR 20 26 20 7 9 0 0.588 92.33
2013/14 EDM/L.A 39 27 40 16 16 4 0.629 93.43
2014/15 EDM 57 28 57 15 26 11 0.373 90.88

This past season stands out as his worst in terms of adjusted save percentage (at even-strength) and the number of games he gave his team a chance to win (QS%). His adjusted save percentage, which factors in the quality of shot (low, medium, high danger), as well as his save percentage of high danger shots at even strength, was well below average.


Last season, and the year prior, he was alright when it came to adjusted save percentage at even strength…right around the average. His save percentage when it came to high danger shots at even-strength were slightly above average two seasons ago, and not too far off the average last season. I should also note that his save percentage when it came to high danger shots was at 82.96 when Eakins was head coach in 2014/2015, and 79.82 when Nelson was head coach. Scrivens’ adjusted save percentage did not change after goaltender coach Freddie Chabot was fired, but his high-danger save percentage went from 83.84 under Chabot to 79.92 under Schwartz (Source: War on Ice). Maybe it was the team tactics under one coach or the fact that Petry was dealt at the deadline, I’m not sure. But those are all factors at play here.


In a previous post, I used the percentage of quality starts to find other goalies who had terrible seasons, similar to Scrivens. Goalies that also had QS% below 0.400 since 2007 include well-established netminders like Brian Elliott, Mike Smith, Devan Dubnyk and Semyon Varlamov (Source: Hockey Abstract). I decided to graph each goalies adjusted save percentage compared to the average as well as their high-danger save percentage along with the average. Again, this is for even strength situations and includes netminders who played 20 or more games in a season.





Couple notes:

  • I think it goes without saying that goalies can be hard to predict. But when goalies have a bad season, they typically bounce back the following year.
  • Man, Elliott and Smith are all over the map.
  • Our boy Devan Dubnyk was trending well before he had that bad season in 2013/2014. So happy to see him bounce back and get recognized for his accomplishments.


Ben Scrivens has a lot of work to do this summer if he wants to get back to an acceptable performance level. He’s in the last year of a two-year contract and will likely be in the AHL next season if he has another sub-par season. There are only so many roster sports for netminders.

The good news is other goaltenders have had seasons with a QS% below 0.400 but have managed to bounce back and maintain employment at the NHL level. These goalies have also seen their adjusted save percentages take a hit throughout their careers, but have still managed to remain as starters in the NHL. At the end of the day, it’ll be up to Scrivens to put this past season behind him, make the right adjustments in the off-season and put together a solid campaign as an Edmonton Oiler. The club would be wise to assign him the backup role, but I really think he could push for that starter position in 2015/2016.

2 thoughts on “Goalies and Voodoo Magic

  1. Pingback: Quality Starts Percentage | The SuperFan

  2. Pingback: Talking Klefbom contract, Defence pairings and Anders Nilsson on The Lowdown with Lowetide | The SuperFan

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