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Goaltender Wins Are A Poor Stat

Miikka Kiprusoff has 26 wins in 42 games played by the Calgary Flames so far this season.  That projects to over 50 wins this season (50.76 wins).  The NHL record for most wins by a goalie is 48 wins and Martin Brodeur accomplished it in 2006/07.  If Kiprusoff has a very good chance of breaking that record, one would think he is having one of the best seasons in NHL history.  He isn’t.  In fact, Miikka Kiprusoff’s play has often been a weak point that has held back the Calgary Flames this season.  Kiprusoff has a .904 saves percentage.  This places him 30th in the NHL (among the 44 goalies who have enough games played to qualify for the race).  His 2.79 GAA places him 26th among the same 44 goalies.  Among this group of goalies, Miikka Kiprusoff is slightly below the middle of the pack.

To get a lot of wins as a goalie, one needs to play a lot of games on a good team that wins a lot.  Nobody plays more games than Miikka Kiprusoff.  This is because Calgary does not have a legitimate backup goalie.  Curtis McElhinney has only played in four games this season (and only two of those are complete games).  Kiprusoff has played the rest of the season.  He has 40 games played and has the decision in all 40.  This gives him a record of 26-14 (where three losses are regulation ties).

Calgary is a good team.  They sit in first place atop the Northwest Division.  Kiprusoff has a lot of starts on a good team that wins the most.  He also has something else in his favor.

Goaltender wins are more common in today’s NHL than they have ever been.  The shootout has done away with ties.  Every game has a win.  Every game has a goaltender win.  In the old days, a significant percentage of games (usually around 15% of them) had no winner as they ended in ties.  Effectively the shootout has raised the number of available wins for goalies by about that 15%.  That is why Kiprusoff is on pace to break Brodeur’s record from two years ago and goalies of the past are not in the picture.

Miikka Kiprusoff is not having a good enough season to make the All Star Game.  He is not merely snubbed from the roster because each team needs a player.  He is off the roster because there is nothing All Star about his play.  It is merely circumstance that makes him a candidate to break the goaltender wins record.  It is the fact he plays in one of the first years of an era where wins are more available than ever before and he plays on a good team that wins a lot of games that has zero confidence in their backup goalie and thus plays him essentially everyday.

The fact that a player having a season which is not All Star calibre can have a good shot at breaking the goaltender wins record is proof that having a lot of goaltender wins does not necessary make one a top goalie.  Wins are a team statistic.  A team wins or loses each game.  The goaltender is one part of the team, but often no more important to the team than the top scorer or the top defenceman.  It can be that the other players on the team who are most responsible for those wins.  This is the case for Miikka Kiprusoff and the Calgary Flames.  This case clearly shows that goaltender wins are a poor stat to pick out a top goaltender.

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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.

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