A lot has been made about Calgary’s goaltending through the first 12 games of the 2015-16 season. And with good reason, considering that no team allowed more goals in the month of October (49) than the Calgary Flames, and the club also spent the first few weeks of the season constantly answering questions about the three-man goaltending “rotation” that was of their own devising.
After a dozen games, let’s spend some time delving into just how bad Calgary’s goaltending (and goaltenders) actually is.
Through 12 games, the Calgary Flames have given up the most even-strength goals of any club in hockey (38). In terms of scoring areas, the goals are 4 “low-danger” goals, 11 “medium-danger” goals and 23 “high-danger” goals. It’s not shocking that high-danger goals are the largest proportion of even-strength goals, representing 61% of goals surrendered – they’re the shots that are most likely to go in. They’re also the shots that teams that play good defense structure their players and deployments in order to avoid.
(image courtesy War On Ice)
For reference, low-danger shots are in the yellow areas of the above graphic, medium-danger are in the red, and the cyan area is high-danger. For reference, here’s the breakdown of even-strength shot by danger area for two of the NHL’s best goalies this season (and for many seasons), Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick and NY Rangers’ Henrik Hundqvist:
- Jonathan Quick: 46.8% low-danger, 28.3% medium-danger and 23.7% high-danger
- Henrik Lundqvist: 48.7% low-danger, 29.2% medium-danger and 22.1% high danger
Overall, here’s the breakdown of even-strength shots against the Calgary Flames this season by area: 42.9% low-danger, 28.9% medium-danger, and 28.2% high-danger. Of course, there’s a fairly significant variance from goalie to goalie, which we’ll get into, but overall compared to the “good” defensive teams, the Flames are allowing 5% more chances to move past the low-danger area and into the areas that could hurt them a lot more. However, Calgary’s perceived defensive ineffectiveness is quite similar to last season’s, where they allowed 43.9% low-danger shots, 26.8% medium-danger shots and 29.3 high-danger shots. It seems that it’s a by-product of the counter-punch system Bob Hartley has them playing.
Overall, the Flames are surrendering 29.8 even-strength shots per 60 minutes (of even-strength time), which places them in the top third of the league in that respect. (They allowed 29.5 per 60 minutes last season, so it’s a very slightly up-tick.) The team’s even-strength save percentage is 86.8%, dead-last in the entire National Hockey League (and down significantly from last season’s 92.2%).
Jonas Hiller was Calgary’s most-used goaltender last season, and also carries that title so far this season. However, he’s also allowed the most even-strength goals: 18 of them, in fact. In terms of his shot breakdown, 37.6% of his shots are low-danger, 30.8% are medium and 31.6% are high-danger. He has allowed 1 low-danger goal, 6 medium-danger goals and 11 high-danger goals. His shooting percentage adjusted for shot quality is 87.65%, which is pretty bad. He’s faced approximately 26.35 even-strength shots per 60 minutes, which is the lowest of Calgary’s three goalies.
When you compare Hiller’s shot-danger distribution to the other goalies, he faces more dangerous shots – on average – than his counterparts. In fact, compared to Quick and Lundqvist Hiller faces 10% more medium and high danger shots, and compared to his teammates he’s also facing about 10% more medium and high danger shots. A lot of Hiller’s goals-against numbers can be attributed to him facing more higher-danger opportunities, but to be fair, compared to himself a year ago his danger rates aren’t too crazy. In 2014-15 he faced 44.6% low-danger, 27.6% medium-danger and 27.8% high-danger shots. The quality of shots he’s facing is up a little bit from last season all things considered, and he’s facing about three fewer shots per 60 minutes than he did a year ago, but his adjusted save percentage has dropped about 5% from 92.66% in 2014-15.
Like last season, Ramo is the second-most used netminder so far this campaign. He’s allowed 13 even-strength goals, the second-most on the team. His shot breakdown is as follows: 46.7% low-danger, 26.1% medium-danger and 27.2% high-danger. He has allowed 2 low-danger goals, 2 medium-danger and 9 high-danger goals. The amount of low danger goals he’s allowed is slightly disproportionate to the amount of time he’s played, but it is what it is. His save percentage adjusted for shot quality is 85.54%, which isn’t very good, and he’s faced 33.23 shots per 60 minutes of even-strength time.
(For reference: this was a low-danger shot.)
Ramo faces more shots per 60 minutes than Hiller, but his danger distribution is only marginally different from that of the league’s top goalies and defenses. Compared to his 2014-15 distribution (42.3% low-danger, 25.6% medium danger and 32.0% high-danger) he’s facing an easier selection of shots than last season, and he’s facing four more shots per 60 minutes than last season. Compared to last season, his adjusted save percentage is 7% worse (down from about 92.5%). In essence, Ramo is facing more, easier shots than Jonas Hiller does (and than he faced himself last season), and is allowing goals more frequently.
Of the netminders, Joni Ortio is the one we (and the NHL club) know the least about as an NHL player. He’s allowed seven even-strength goals (1 low-danger, 3 medium-danger and 3 high-danger). The low-danger goal he allowed was the muffin against the Islanders that went off his mask and ricocheted in. In terms of his danger distribution, he’s faced 48.4% low-danger shots, 29.0% medium-danger shots and 22.6% high-danger shots. Compared to Quick and Lundqvist, it’s about the same distribution. Per 60 minutes, he faces about 34.03 even-strength shots. His adjusted save percentage is 87.82%, which is about the same as Jonas Hiller – albeit through significantly fewer minutes and shots against.
Ortio is facing about the same proportion of dangerous shots that he faced in his appearances last season (his low-danger percentage was 45.7%, which is about the same as this season). He’s facing seven more shots per 60 minutes than last season, and his adjusted save percentage is down about 2% from last season, which is marginally lower. Ortio’s facing more shots per game, but they’re about as dangerous as he faced last year and he’s about as good at stopping them. Heck, if you disregard the softie he allowed in Brooklyn, his numbers are probably up slightly.
SUM IT UP
The Flames aren’t great defensively, and are giving up lots of high-quality chances relative to other NHL teams. That said, they were about as bad last season in terms of giving up high-danger shots as a proportion of all the shots they allowed and it didn’t burn them as badly.
When accounting for shot quality differences, the Flames goalies are making saves less frequently. Joni Ortio is making saves about as frequently as he did last season, and his sample size is pretty small, but Jonas Hiller is 5% worse when adjusting for shot quality and Karri Ramo is 7% worse.
Is it their defense or their goaltending? Well, their defense was just as bad last season, but this season they’re disproportionately bad in front of Jonas Hiller, giving up medium and high-danger shots at a higher frequency than in front of Ramo or Ortio. That said, even when accounting for the differences in shot quality the netminders have faced, Hiller and Ramo have both under-performed dramatically compared to last season’s numbers in front of the same porous defense.
The simple answer is “both the defense and the goaltending have been bad,” and while it’s probably not possible to point a finger at one without pointing a finger at both, the goaltending has been really bad even when accounting for all the quality chances the defense is allowing.