Jaroslav Halak is a good goalie. Chad Johnson is probably not.

I see people overreacting to the Islander goal situation right now. Yes the goaltending #s are really bad, and the goaltending has been really bad. We even had our first “I’m not going to talk about the goaltending” comment from Cappy! Yet people, including Cappy, are massively missing the point.

We have 10 games of goaltending data so far, 6 for Halak, 4 for Johnson. And the numbers are bad, as I said. But 10 games of goalie performance is basically nothing. It’s a drop in the bucket. And goaltenders are EXTREMELY RANDOM. Here’s how random: Both Lundqvist and Tuukka Rask are sub .900 in SV% right now. Lundqvist actually did the same thing last year and of course he turned out just fine. Goaltenders go through hot and cold streaks like no other position in hockey.

But you may say: Well Halak (and Johnson) looks bad! Well he has! But here’s the thing. Every type of player has good days and bad days, and sometimes they’ll have a few of those in a row. But for other types of skaters, if they have bad days, it may not really cost your team at all, because a few bad plays by a forward or D-Man don’t necessarily result in you being scored upon. One turnover by a D Man in the D zone for example doesn’t necessarily lead to the puck in one’s own net. By contrast, goalie mistakes are magnified. One whiff on a long distance unscreened shot is a goal against.

So given how small our samples are for each goalie, our expectations for Johnson and Halak shouldn’t really be any different than they were coming into this season. Halak was expected to have about a .915 this year (just above average for a starter). How about Johnson? Well he had a .923 in the NHL coming into today, but that is only on 1054 shots. Which isn’t much of a sample. So if we include Johnson’s AHL #s, we get around a .913 or .914. But these are if you count AHL SVs as as difficult as NHL ones, which isn’t very likely (NHL Saves are harder). So he’s probably closer to a .910 goalie. Which is below average.

Now .910 or so isn’t bad for a backup – it’s not good, but it’s acceptable. But he’s clearly a worse goalie than Halak. So we should STOP overreacting to small samples and stop playing him over Halak.

Both goalies should regress positively. Halak will more so. Give him the chance, and you’ll be rewarded.

Neutral Zone Analysis: 2014-2015 Season: Game 8 v Dallas

G8

Last night’s game vs the Stars involved the Isles being outplayed in the neutral zone, as you can see here. The Stars did a much better job than the Isles carrying the puck in, but the Isles had greater success in the offensive and defensive zones.

This has been a rolling theme actually – the Isles have actually been a slightly negative Neutral zone team in close situations this year and have dominated mainly due to amazing play in the offensive zone. While this can be a method for long term success – the Sharks have done it for the last 2 years, although they were also great in the D Zone, it generally isn’t the most repeatable of statistical profiles.

In short, the Isles probably need to get better in the neutral zone to keep up their great possession numbers. Here’s hoping they can figure this out – having Grabovski should help, as should Hamonic, although Hamonic has been extremely dump-heavy this year – when he was a big carry-in guy last year. Hopefully that doesn’t continue.

How much impact should the addition of Anders Lee have?

Let’s be clear here:  Anders Lee should’ve been up from the start.  The only reasons that Lee went down were:
1.  He was waiver exempt; and2.  His skating is sometimes thought to be an issue.

#2 should be a minor issue after last year – even if they did have concerns about his skating – and scout Corey Pronman used to cite that as a probable issue with Lee – his play last year for 22 games suggested that whatever other skills he had more than made up for it.  Again, this is what Lee did last year:
AndersLee Data Table

(A legend for the above table can be found HERE:  )

That’s the stat line of a very plus possession player alongside good linemates, with a great shooting rate and who wasn’t sheltered territorially.  You can see some evidence of his less than great skating in the neutral zone data – where his 37% controlled entry rate is below average for a forward, but his line was such a plus possession line it didn’t matter.  They were only slightly positive in the neutral zone, which may suggest some decline, but the overall numbers are really good and even the neutral zone #s, due to the 51.1% on-ice entry rate, was terrific.

In other words, using skating as an excuse was really just an excuse.  The Isles didn’t keep Lee at first because they didn’t want to lose inferior grinders to waivers.  We’ve gone over this before.

So where does Lee play?  On one hand, I’d think putting him alongside Bailey and Nielsen would make a lot of sense.  You already had Kulemin with Nelson and Strome for 1 and 2/3 games, and it was with Bailey and Nielsen that Lee had the most success last year.  Those two players and Lee should pick up quickly how they played together, and shouldn’t be harmed by a lack of practice.

But it sounds like they’re instead going with a “Kids Line”  Lee-Nelson-Strome.  To a certain degree this makes sense.  If you recall, I mentioned Nelson’s poor shot rate had been compensated for a good bit by Grabovski taking a ton of shots.  Well, in the 22 games he played, Lee managed a shot rate that was near the top of the NHL – 11th in S/60, 39th in attempts per 60 at EV.  That should fit in real nicely.  Course he probably isn’t as good a possession player as Grabbo, but Nelson and Strome should have that fairly well covered.  A kid line SHOULD work – the issue may be more that they haven’t practiced together.

More importantly is Lee should boost performance over Colin McDonald regardless of where he is.  Let’s be clear:  CMac was not the 13th worst forward on this team – that would be Matt Martin, but the team won’t waive him so that’s a moot point.   As we’ve previously discussed:

So what we have here [in Colin McDonald] is a guy who slightly hurts possession, who doesn’t score very much and can draw penalties.

With Lee you lose the penalty drawing and gain someone who may be a plus possession player (WAY too early to say) and who probably can score at least a little (let’s say 15 goals in a full year).  The hope is that when Grabbo comes back – probably next week (although who can say with concussions) – they keep him here.  I have faith they will: the team would’ve called him up earlier if they were willing to keep him up for a short term burst.  The question is who goes – it should be Martin.  It probably would be Conacher.

Neutral Zone Analysis: 2014-2015 Season: Game 5 @ Pittsburgh

Game 5 entries

Above are the Islander Neutral Zone results for Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh. The Isles basically played Pitt even in the neutral zone, or maybe were barely beaten as such while the game was close (Entries were 33-32 Pitt in close, 17-13 with control). As much as it felt like the Isles were losing at even strength, they didn’t really do so statistically by much. Just a failure of special teams, really. And this was against a top team in the league – Pitt is really good, much improved from last year.

Through 5 games, the Isles have basically beaten my expectations in ordinary fancystats. I mentioned that the goal for me was to get 6 points (they got 8) and to be above 50% fenwick close (they’re at 56.7%), so yeah that’s pretty nice. That said, their possession victories have come near entirely in the offensive zone – their neutral zone fenwick is just below even (49.8%), but they are massively outperforming what we’d expect from their entries in the offensive zone (the defensive zone #s are slightly below average).

So the goal for the next 5 games should be the following: Keep up above average possession numbers, 6 more points, and to win the neutral zone. The team should be now more used to how their linemates and d pairs play, and should get a healthy Lubo back soon, so this should definitely be attainable.

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PS: I was asked in a comment to post who the above Islanders are in my neutral zone tracking. You can see the Islanders by Sweater # below:

Isles Roster #s

Neutral Zone Analysis: 2014-15 season: Game 4 Home vs San Jose

Game 4 entries

Game 4 Neutral Zone #s are below. The Isles outplayed the Sharks by a little bit in the neutral zone, but really outplayed them in the defensive and particularly the offensive zone, getting a ton of shot attempts off of each zone entry. Overall a great game in all 3 zones, with the Sharks’ scoring being pretty fluky. Well done vs a pretty good team.

PS: I was asked in a comment to post who the above Islanders are in my neutral zone tracking. You can see the Islanders by Sweater # below:

Isles Roster #s