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The Puck Stops Here

Best And Worst Saves Percentage Of The Past Year

The Christmas break in the NHL schedule gives a chance to take a look back at the last year.  Since the period from Christmas to Christmas is not a season, we don't regularly look at the numbers that way.  Sometimes we find some players who have had remarkable performances in the year but will not be remembered as such since they did not do it over the course of a single NHL season.  Sometimes we find some other interesting results. 

I was looking at saves percentages over the past year on the NHL website.  Their website is not quite as intelligent as it should be in that it views a player who played on a different team last year as a different player from the same player on his current team.  This mistake pointed me at an interesting result.  The best saves percentage of the past year (among goalies with sufficient games played) belongs to Brian Elliott of the St Louis Blues and the worst one belongs to Brian Elliott of the Calgary Flames.  He is the same player.  Elliott had a .936 saves percentage in St Louis and a .890 in Calgary.  How can the same player be so good and also so bad and what is a reasonable expectation for him going forward?

Elliott has largely been a backup goalie in his career until he came to Calgary.  This allowed him to slip under the radar and play against weaker teams in some circumstances.  When he got to Calgary he had the expectations of a number one goalie.  That fact is not enough to explain the discrepancy between his St Louis and Calgary results but it is a start.

The most meaningful reason for Elliott's troubles this year is probably luck and a small sample size.  Elliott had a bad start after a good year last year.  Elliott has a history of inconsistent performances.  In Ottawa he nearly played himself out of the league.  It St Louis he saved his career.  It is hard to point to one factor that led to that turnaround.  St Louis played a strong defensive system in front of Elliott under coach Ken Hitchcock but they changed goalie coaches and many other factors in the run.

I accept that saves percentage is an imperfect measure of goaltending.  However that is not an explanation either.  In order for the same goalie to be the beast and the worst by saves percentage while playing at the same level, we would have to accept that saves percentage is entirely meaningless.  That clearly isn't true.

The facts are that Elliott has only been successful as a goalie in St Louis.  He was very successful in St Louis.  He has failed significantly in his other stops.  He hasn't looked like an NHL goaltender.  Probably in Calgary this is partly just a small sample size.  With more game he will show himself to be a better goalie.  He probably will not have the success he had in St Louis but he may become an acceptable goalie in Calgary.

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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.

Why am I blogging? I want to.

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Email: y2kfhl@hotmail.com

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