Caps goalie Vitek Vanecek is marked as the losing goaltender in Tuesday night’s 1-0 loss to the New York Islanders. Sure, that’s accurate from a statistical perspective, but it overlooks what a wizard he was in that game.
That was one of the finest jobs an NHL goalie has done all season.
38 saves on 39 shots
This is a VV appreciation post 👏 pic.twitter.com/08FMAi01fx
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) April 7, 2021
Here, using Natural Stat Trick, are the best goalie performances of the season, ranked by Expected Saved Goals (i.e. expected opponent goals minus actual opponent goals). The opponent’s events during all strengths (shots on goal, high-danger chances, scoring chanced, expected goals, and actual goals) are displayed, color-coded based on all team-goalie performances for the season. Vanecek’s Tuesday night is highlighted.
Those are just the top 25 out of 1192 team-goalie performances, and I think it still underrates the job did. He faced a stunning volume of high-danger chances, 25, the most any NHL goalie has seen in a single game this season. Here’s an event map from Micah of HockeyViz:
I was wondering why so many people were talking about Vitek Vaněček but I get it now. pic.twitter.com/EXfMJnjazL
— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) April 7, 2021
Further, Vanecek did this during an excruciatingly tight game. A lot of those other top-25 entries came in games where the goalie was protecting a massive lead– the average goal-differential is plus-2.8. Just four of the top-25 came in games were won by one goal.
Without Vitek Vanecek making 38 stops and some great work from the goalposts, I think this could have gotten as ugly as the last matchup between these two teams. Rumors have been flying and swirling lately about the Caps looking to acquire a goaltender and there are numbers that would back that decision up in terms of expected goals against, but can you really count many games that you can blame on the netminders this season instead of the defensive work from the dudes in front of them.
Finally, the Caps really need to reconsider how they’re playing the Islanders this season.
Numbers thanks to Natural Stat Trick
Headline image: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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