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Best Saves Percentage Since The Lockout

Yesterday I began to look at goaltenders in the current NHL era.  This is the time since the 2004/05 lockout which is coming to an end with the upcoming lockout this season.  It is a seven year period where the NHL operated under the current CBA with a salary cap imposed for the first time.  In my first look at goaltending I posted the winningest goalies in the era.  This does a good job of showing the goalies who played the most games in the era.  It doesn't directly show which goalies was the best one.  As long as the goalie maintained his starting job he had a chance to win.  The more games he played the more games he would win. 

The simplest stat to look at to show how well the goalies played is saves percentage.  The problem is this is a rate stat and may show that somebody who played only a handful of games was the best.  I will cutoff the goalies involved in the comparison to those who played 25 or more games in the era.  This prevents us from getting a list of goalies who saved the only shot they faced.  It will still rank some goalies who did not play many games among the top.  That is an interesting thing because it helps to show how well some goalies played in limited playing time and also shows how well the best goalies who had a significant number of games played performed.

Here are the top 20 goalies by saves percentage since 2005:

Best Saves Percentage Since 2005 (min 25 GP)
Rank Player Saves Pctg
1 Cory Schneider .928
2 Tuukka Rask .926
3 Tim Thomas .922
4 Tomas Vokoun .921
5 Pekka Rinne .921
6 Henrik Lundqvist .920
7 Roberto Luongo .919
8 Niklas Backstrom .918
9 Jonas Hiller .918
10 Jaroslav Halak .918
11 Jimmy Howard .917
12 Ryan Miller .916
13 Carey Price .916
14 Jonathan Quick .916
15 Josh Harding .916
16 Ilya Bryzgalov .915
17 Craig Anderson .915
18 Antti Niemi .915
19 Semyon Varlamov 915
20 Miikka Kiprusoff .914

My first observation from this list is that our two leaders have a limited number of games played.  Cory Schneider appeared in 68 games and Tuukka Rask in 102.  It is unlikely if they played as many games as the third and fourth place finishers Tim Thomas (374 GP) and Tomas Vokoun (401 GP) that they would have maintained as high a saves percentage.  Nevertheless they are clearly some of the best young goalies in the game and could become future stars.

Saves percentages have been slowly creeping upward in this era.  Thus we tend not to have as many older goalies on this list as younger ones.  In fact every goalie on this list is currently active in the NHL  This is in part because of the rising saves percentages with time and in part because of selection effects.  If a goalie posts a season with a poor saves percentage he is less likely to appear on this list and also less likely to remain active in the NHL. 

The wins leader in the era Miikka Kirprusoff ranks 20th by saves percentage.  This shows that while he may have been the goalie who played the most games in the era, it is hard to argue that he was the bestgoalie in the era.

Sorting goalies by saves percentage in the most recent era gives us a ranking of modern goalies.  Because of rising saves percentages with time we tend to lose the goalies who played in the early part of our seven year period.  

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Comments

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It is unlikely if they played as many games as the third and fourth place finishers Tim Thomas (374 GP) and Tomas Vokoun (401 GP) that they would have maintained as high a saves percentage.

Do you have anything to back that up?  As you point out, Thomas and Vokoun both played a lot more games yet both of their saves percentages were nearly as high as Schneider’s and Rask’s were.

Posted by Garth on 09/03/12 at 03:08 PM ET

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Posted by Garth on 09/03/12 at 04:08 PM ET

The more games you play, the closer your rate statistic is going to regress up or down toward your natural ability. I don’t think save percentages necessarily decrease due to playing more games (in fact, I think that there’s little data to suggest that goalie performance decreases with increased workloads), but I think with Rask and Schneider you have small sample sizes and you have goalies who have played their entire short careers on elite defensive teams. If any goalies are going to have save percentages that drastically overstate their actual ability, it’s those guys.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 09/03/12 at 05:18 PM ET

Joe Z.'s avatar

the flames would be fighting with edmonton and columbus for the first round pick the last couple of seasons without kipper in net. actually you should see this guy play and you’ll see how good a goalie he is. one the best in the discussed time frame. while you are at hockey-reference, maybe you should consider the other categories as well before you make such statements:
“The wins leader in the era Miikka Kirprusoff ranks 20th by saves percentage.  This shows that while he may have been the goalie who played the most games in the era, it is hard to argue that he was the bestgoalie in the era.”

Posted by Joe Z. from Austria on 09/03/12 at 06:05 PM ET

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My point was that he says they shouldn’t be able to sustain their numbers, but then he points to guys who HAVE been able to sustain numbers that aren’t much lower.

If Schneider’s Sv% were .980 and the next guy was .920 then there might be an argument, but there are ten guys within .010 over Rask.

Also, both goalies’ counterparts are in the top ten so there’s no reason to think that thir numbers are unsustainable since both Thomas and Luongo have shown that they can be.

I’m not saying it’s a given that they’re going to stay at the top of the list, just that it’s perfectly reasonable to think that they could keep their numbers up.

Posted by Garth on 09/03/12 at 06:13 PM ET

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Posted by Garth on 09/03/12 at 07:13 PM ET

You say “perfectly reasonable to think that they could.” I say “they possibly could, but it’s unlikely.” It’s hard to tell how much we really disagree, though I imagine there’s at least a bit of a gap.

These guys are backups, playing potentially somewhat sheltered minutes, behind elite NHL defenses. Even if they go out and play every bit as well as they already have, the mostly likely outcome is that their numbers decline at least slightly, if only because their teams are unlikely to stay defensively elite over the long haul.

Your point is well taken, though. At this point, we don’t really have enough data to say they AREN’T already the very best, or among the very best, in the league. But we don’t have enough data to really say that they conclusively ARE, either. Only time will tell.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 09/03/12 at 08:23 PM ET

mmuskrat's avatar

Puckstopshere, if you’re going to attempt to judge players based on statistics, then you need to leave opinion and commentary out of your analysis.  If you are going to take a statistical analysis approach, then you’d need some numbers to support your statements about Rask and Schneider maintaining their stats over a greater workload.  (ie, show a trend of lowering saves% over an increase from 30-60 games played for goalies in the league).  You may be correct, but when you’re taking a statistical approach, your thoughts that come from thin air are unhelpful and alter your outcome.

Also, your statement, “Because of rising saves percentages with time we tend to lose the goalies who played in the early part of our seven year period.” shows that saves percentage isn’t a totally reliable stat for judging the best goalie.  There are so many more factors that contribute to Saves % (like playing for Calgary vs playing for Vancouver in recent years) that dismissing Kipper from the conversation on that basis isn’t very helpful.

Posted by mmuskrat on 09/03/12 at 08:26 PM ET

shazam88's avatar

^^ Good post, mmuskrat. 

PSH always takes a statistical approach, which is fine, but then resorts immediately to subjective measures to explain results that in his mind are outliers or anomalies.  That’s his prerogative, and I agree that most of these stats have inherent weaknesses, but his hybrid methodology drastically waters down any conclusions that one might otherwise draw.

Posted by shazam88 from SoCal on 09/04/12 at 10:06 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Shazam

That is perhaps the silliest criticism I have seen in a long time.  If I presented the numbers and blindly accepted whatever they say it would be pointless.  Do you really think I should conclude that therefore Cory Schneider is the best goalie the NHL has seen since 2005?  That conclusion is stupid and wrong.  A backup goalie has not been the best in the era.  The other alternative is to present the numbers with no analysis whatsoever.  That is a rather pointless enterprise as well.  The analysis makes things better and more understandable.  A big point of my sabermetrics posts is to explain what exists today and show why it may or may not tell the whole story. 

What conclusion do you draw from these numbers that is watered down?  That is an empty statement.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 09/04/12 at 03:46 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

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