by PuckStopsHere on 12/21/13 at 02:12 AM ET
Yesterday, I wrote a post entitled How valuable is Corey Crawford? In it I argued that Corey Crawford is not a particularly valuable starting goalie. Sure he is the number one goalie on the best team in the NHL, but he is not one of the top goalies in the league. His numbers look better than they would otherwise be because of the strong team playing in front of him. I use Antti Raanta the rookie goalie who has taken over for Crawford during his injury and posted better numbers thus far (in a limited number of games) and Ray Emery, his last year backup who posted good numbers in Chicago and is struggling now that he has moved onto Philadelphia as evidence to support my case. A lot of what I said about Crawford could also be said of Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles. Yet I consider Quick to be one of the best goalies in the NHL. I want to make the case why that is true despite the fact I concluded the opposite for Crawford.
This season Jonathan Quick has posted a .905 saves percentage and a 2.35 GAA. Those are relatively average numbers for an NHL goalie. Quick has been injured with a strained groin for the last month. While he has been away, his backup goalie Ben Scrivens has put up some very good numbers. He has a .941 saves percentage and a 1.66 GAA. This is the best saves percentage among goalies with enough games played to qualify for the league race. Scrivens is new to Los Angeles. Last year in Toronto he posted a .915 saves percentage and a 2.69 GAA. The argument can be made that his numbers look better now that he is Los Angeles. Their strong defence makes any goalie look better.
During Quick's injury, Martin Jones has come up from the AHL and performed even better. He has posted some incredible numbers. He has a .971 saves percentage and a 0.85 GAA in seven games played. It seems every goalie that comes along in Los Angeles is posting better numbers than Quick has. So is it not reasonable to argue that Quick is not a particularly good goalie either?
Quick will likely be one of the American goalies in the 2014 Olympics, assuming he is healthy by then. I consider him one of the strengths of the American team. I think Corey Crawford should not be on the Canadian Olympic Team. What is the difference?
I think Quick's numbers so far this year underestimate him. In his last full length season (2011/12) he posted a .929 saves percentage and a 1.95 GAA. In the playoffs he has done even better. In 2012, he posted a .946 saves percentage and a 1.41 GAA winning the Conn Smythe Trophy. In 2013, his numbers were .934 and 1.86. Quick's best numbers have been better than Crawford's. He has a higher ceiling to his ability.
The other Los Angeles goalies have posted good numbers. There is reason to doubt how long they can continue at their current levels. If Scrivens could continue at his current level for an entire season it would be arguably the best season a goalie has ever had in the NHL. He has largely been a backup goalie and has only 48 games played in his NHL career over three seasons. It is hard to project his upside because he has a limited sample of NHL games. It will be hard for him to continue to play at this level. The more he plays, the more scouts have a chance to find flaws in his game that can be exploited. It is quite reasonable to imagine that he is playing above a sustainable level and will in time have his numbers fall to a more reasonable level.
Jones is an even bigger example of a goalie playing over his head in a small sample of games. Nobody can post numbers of his level for the longterm. Nobody has ever come close. Jones has never come close in any lesser leagues. Jones will not stay at this level. It is impossible.
I would predict that in a few months' time, Jonathan Quick will return from injury and his numbers will improve. Ben Scrivens and Martin Jones will see their numbers regress. In a few months time this argument that Quick cannot post better numbers than the other Los Angeles goalies will no longer be true. I think it will remain true in Chicago - at least if we only include their better goalies (meaning Nikolai Khabibulin is not in the discussion). Both Chicago and Los Angeles make their goalies look better than they are. They have strong defences. Quick at his best posts better numbers than Crawford and looks like a better goalie when you watch him play. Thus Jonathan Quick is a better goalie than Corey Crawford and this has been demonstrated in years past. It may be that right now they look to be in similar statistical situations on their respective teams this season, but I think that situation looks more temporary for Quick than it does for Crawford. Jonathan Quick is quite a bit more valuable to his team than Corey Crawford.
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