by PuckStopsHere on 08/07/13 at 04:31 PM ET
During my summer look at sabermetrics and hockey, I have posted the team Corsi ratings. This is the difference between shots attempted for and against for a team in 5 on 5 situations. The team with the second best team Corsi was the New Jersey Devils. They posted a +417 rating. While doing that they missed the playoffs. They finished 11th overall in the East Conference with a 19-29 record with 10 regulation tie points. This was good enough for 48 points. That was seven points back of the last playoff spot in the East Conference. How can it be that a team with such good puck possession had such a poor record?
The simple answer is goaltending. Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg were a very weak goaltending tandem. The only goalie to play more minutes than Brodeur and post a saves percentage worse than his .901 was Ilya Bryzgalov. Similarly only one goalie played more minutes than Johan Hedberg and posted a worse saves percentage than his .883 and he was Miikka Kiprusoff. New Jersey had the worst goaltending in the NHL in 2013 - ranked by saves percentage. Very few people realized this because Martin Brodeur is a legend. He has had a great career and people have been slow to question him even though his play has deteriorated. Johan Hedberg has been even worse and he has not had the same great career. Hence he has been questioned and bought out by the Devils. He is likely going to be forced into retirement because nobody is interested in signing him.
New Jersey allowed fewer shots per game than any other NHL team. This is a function of their good puck possession as shown by their strong Corsi rating. If you added top goaltending to the Devils last year they would have been one of the better teams in the NHL.
They added a solid goaltender this summer in Cory Schneider, who came from Vancouver. He put up a .927 saves percentage and a 2.11 GAA last season in Vancouver. Those numbers are far better than either of the 2013 Devil goalies. He will be an improvement in goal. The question is how big an improvement will he be? How much of those numbers come from playing behind the Canuck defence and will transfer to the Devils system?
It is clear that New Jersey will have better goaltending. Will it be sufficiently better to make them a good team? I think it might. While most of the world will look at the Devils as a weak team that missed the playoffs and then lost Ilya Kovalchuk, I think Corsi shows us that they were a good team except for very poor goaltending. It is almost certain that Schneider will be a significant upgrade in goal and that will be an improvement for the team. Sure Kovalchuk is a talent, but his 11 goals and 31 points had a much smaller impact on the Devils than their poor goaltending. I think it is quite likely New Jersey will be a playoff team next year. They will be a surprise team to most onlookers. That will make Peter DeBoer an almost certain coach of the year candidate regardless of how well he actually coaches.
New Jersey may have missed the playoffs last year but they had very good puck possession numbers as they did it. They had the worst goaltending in the NHL - at least by saves percentage. That will almost certainly improve under Cory Schneider and this will propel the Devils up the NHL standings. The Devils will likely be a surprise team next year.
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