Here we are – 24 games into the season, just past the quarter mark of what has been an exceptionally up-and-down season.
The quarter mark, in my mind, is where statistics and performances start becoming meaningful. It’s where legitimate trends can be identified, which makes it an interesting point for analysis.
Much of the discussion regarding the Leafs over the past couple years has centered around the topic of goaltending. Given the variance in both personnel and results over the last five years, and the critical role that goaltending plays in the success of any team, analyzing the Leafs’ goaltending trends is of particular interest.
It’s a general consensus among the fanbase that the goaltending has been relatively strong so far this season. Simply using the eye test can tell most viewers that the Leafs’ goaltending has been good. But exactly how good has it been? Further, how does it stack up to previous seasons? I dug into some data to find out.
So far, the Leafs have called on three goalies: Matt Murray, Ilya Samsonov, and Erik Kallgren. This collection of goalies was particularly interesting to me, and to much of the fanbase, entering the season for the storylines surrounding them. Could Matt Murray and/or Ilya Samsonov recapture the form that once made them relevant names in the world of goaltending? Could Erik Kallgren establish himself as an NHL option following his stint in the 2021-22 season?
The results thus far are as follows:
Matt Murray: 7 games played, .927 save percentage, 4.7 goals saved above expected
Ilya Samsonov: 8 games played, .921 save percentage, 4.9 goals saved above expected
Erik Kallgren: 10 games played, .898 save percentage, -0.6 goals saved above expected
Totals: .915 save percentage, 9.0 goals saved above expected (30.75 pace across 82 games)
Last year, the Leafs saw five goalies play games for them over the course of the season. Following a record-setting November, it seemed that the main storyline for the season was the (poor) performance of the goaltenders. The goalies that suited up for the Leafs were Jack Campbell, Erik Kallgren, Petr Mrazek, Joseph Woll, and Michael Hutchinson. Their results are as follows:
Jack Campbell: 49 games played, .914 save percentage, -2.3 goals saved above expected
Erik Kallgren: 14 games played, .888 save percentage, -5.2 goals saved above expected
Petr Mrazek: 20 games played, .888 save percentage, -11.6 goals saved above expected
Joseph Woll: 4 games played, .911 save percentage, 0.0 goals saved above expected
Michael Hutchinson: 2 games played, .857 save percentage, -1.9 goals saved above expected
Totals: .900 save percentage, -21.0 goals saved above expected
The 2020-21 season was memorable for a number of reasons. One such reason was that it was the end of the Frederik Andersen era in Toronto, and the beginning of the Jack Campbell era. You might recall his record-setting 11-0 start with the team. Outside of Andersen and Campbell, two other goalies saw games with the Leafs that season: Michael Hutchinson and David Rittich. Their results are as follows:
Jack Campbell: 22 games played, .921 save percentage, 8.4 goals saved above expected
Frederik Andersen: 24 games played, .895 save percentage, -4.8 goals saved above expected
Michael Hutchinson: 8 games played, .919 save percentage, -1.4 goals saved above expected
David Rittich: 4 games played, .888 save percentage, -1.1 goals saved above expected
Totals: .905 save percentage, 1.1 goals saved above expected (1.61 pace across 82 games)
While pure save percentage and goals saved above expected are flawed measures in conducting goaltending analysis, they can provide a strong indicator of the general quality of goaltending provided over a large sample size.
Over the last ~2.25 years, the Leafs have experienced the full range of great, average, and poor goaltending. Through this analysis it’s clear to see that not only has the Leafs’ goaltending been significantly stronger than in years past, but it has been one of their biggest strengths thus far this season. The difference is particularly stark in comparing last season’s goaltending to this season’s, which perhaps illustrates how poor the goaltending was last season more than how strong it’s been this one.
Both Ilya Samsonov and Matt Murray have, thus far, been objectively great by the eye test and the numbers. They currently sit in 11th and 13th, respectively, in goals saved above expected and have each played less than 9 games. Once Samsonov returns from injury, it’s reasonable to expect that the goaltending will further improve, which is nothing against Erik Kallgren who has had his ups and downs but has filled in admirably when needed.
While it’s likely not reasonable to expect Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov to keep performing at the level that they have thus far this season (remember Jack Campbell last November), all signs indicate that both could be on track for great seasons if they can stay healthy. For two guys whose former teams gave up on them, this has been a storybook start.
(all data collected from MoneyPuck and EliteProspects)