Breaking Down Calgary’s Goaltenders After 12 Games

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.

OVERALL

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.

zones-three
(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

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.

KARRI RAMO

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.

JONI ORTIO

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.

  • ville de champignons

    Has to make you wonder about the goalie coach when all of our goalies are playing this poorly. Not trying to disparage Mr. Sigalet but his bio doesn’t seem to be all that great. You guys all know a lot more about hockey than I do, so comments?

    • ClayBort

      Sigalet actually has a pretty decent resume. There is a misunderstanding about goalie coaches. A lot of folks think that they are there to get goalies thinking a certain way, a sports psychologist of sorts.

      This really isn’t the case. The Flames and other teams carry a psychologist on the payroll, or at least have one on contract. A goalie coach is there to work on mechanics, much like a pitching coach in baseball. From what I can see, there aren’t any major mechanical issues with the goaltending. Many times they are in position to make a save, then don’t. Sigalet’s job is to get the goalie high percentage positions to make saves. He has. There are some lingering issues as there are with every goaltender. For example Ramo has difficulty sealing his armpits, always has. Hiller is a technical nightmare, but all Francois Allaire goalies that are still around are. Furthermore, it’s difficult for a goalie coach to spread his time across 3 guys. In the Kipper days, Kipper would command 80-90% of the goalie coach’s time, and the backup dujour would have a less tailored approach, mostly copying what the starter was working on.

      The issue looks mental more than anything. In position to make a save, then whiff. I’d heap more blame on Hartley. It’s hard to build momentum in the crease if you can’t get a few games in succession, or in Ortio’s case, you go several weeks between starts with limited reps in practice, and your first start back is a low percentage of success (back-to-back against a strong team). Like players, usage does matter, especially in the short term. Like pitchers, goalies matchup differently against different teams. With well managed tandems, more goes into a start decision than “the other guy played bad last game”. There is actual analytics that can be applied in these scenarios. They often are simpler than some of the advanced numbers. Given that, not managing back to backs accordingly, or tough starts versus less tough starts is just lazy or ignorant coaching.

      For the curious, an example of the stats are microanalysis of how a goaltender handles heavy workloads over time, a goalies save percentage in game 1 and game 2 of back to backs, team shot rates in back to backs. In many cases, these stats have been tracked by teams far longer than more advanced analytics.

      • CofRed4Life

        ^Good analysis. I think it’s hard to blame the goalie coach, and the mental issues go mostly back to the individual goalie and Hartley in his usage of each goalie.

  • beloch

    It will be interesting to see if Hartley keeps Wideman and Russel split up long-term. None of the Flames pairs looked great against the oilers, but neither were any as terrifying to watch as Russel and Wideman together have been so far this season. It will also be interesting to see if things improve once Hamilton begins to assert himself and takes on more minutes. Ideally, I’d like to see Brodano reunited and Hamilton on the second pair.

    It might also not be a bad idea for Hartley to make some concessions towards a more “low event” system. A high event system is funner to watch, but it’s self-defeating when your goalies aren’t up to the challenge. Even just cutting down on the stretch passes until the situation in net has improved might help the Flames salvage this season.

  • The GREAT Walter White

    I’m so glad baseball season is finally over, I can’t stand that game….

    I would almost rather watch 3 hours of Connor McDavid commercials than a baseball game…..almost.

    WW

  • CofRed4Life

    All three goalies play a different style and JS job is to tweak their game play approach by studying them during games and providing feedback and potential drills to sharpen any deficiencies. As a goalie, i do know that confidence in myself and my defenceman are a big part of my success and overal team success. If the defence is not their to bail me out or keeping the opponent to the outside and away from danger areas then the opponents shooting % will go up, but if I can stay hot then I might be able to steal a period or a game, but the odds for success will eventually drop if there is an imbalance between the play of the goalie and defence, which is fully understandable. If you throw in support from the forwards then confidence can trickle down to your own end, a team game will win games, and right now the entire team is failing, thus bad goalie statistics.

    Just my view

  • hulkingloooooob

    spell check:

    “They’re also the shots that teams that play good defense structure in order to avoid.”

    “They allowed 29.5 per 60 minutes last season, so it’s a very slightly up-tick.”

    “Heck, if you disregard the softie he allowed in Brooklyn, his numbers are probably up slightly.” gee. ya think?

    _____

    all that aside….i’m not sure what you are saying, our goaltending has been bad? yeah. well, we all knew that! i think it’s way too early to read anything into these types of numbers. the sample size is way too small.

    with Brodie back hopefully all these numbers get better.

    . . .but we may need goaltending help sooner then gills can provide it….

  • everton fc

    My thoughts;

    Hiller is the experienced goalie here. He is either washed up, or moving in that direction, or simply needs a string of starts to get back on track. Trouble is, Hartley may not be willing to give any of these three “a string”.

    Ramo may also need a string of starts to break out of his inconsistencies, but he’s always been somewhat inconsistent, and is a Feaster signing, so his days are numbered if they can find a trading partner, unless he has some miraculous starts.

    Ortio probably needs a string of starts, as well, to truly assess if he’s even worthy of being in the NHL. They may ruin this kid, though he is 24 now, and will be 25 when the season ends. The time has come to see if this kid can be a #1 – or send him down now and let him get a string of starts to work out any rust or kinks, whilst improving his confidence, though I think this kid doesn’t struggle with confidence issues. If you run w/Ortio, though, and he tanks, you may almost wipe out any chance of the playoffs this season.

    • cberg

      I don’t buy the “they need a string of starts” concept as the excuse why the goalies have been playing way sub-par to even last year. That isn’t what’s happening this year, and it seems almost like its the grass is greener syndrome i.e. try something different, it’ll work. Look, in the league, and let’s use Dallas an an example, goalies rotate, often quite frequently. In Dallas its every game, whether they win or not. Last year we rotated after a loss and the same thing is happening this year. It worked last year fairly well, not this year.

      The biggest difference this year is different key injuries and the team was playing crap in front of the goalies. I’m not putting this on BH. He is not the guy on the ice, the ones executing, or failing to execute.

    • FlamesRule

      Agree with everything you say except we can’t keep calling Ramo a Feaster signing when he was reupped this year.

      Hiller is on the downslope, Ortio hasn’t shown any consistency so the only one that should get a string is Ramo. If he gets hot waive Hiller next.

  • Howie Meeker

    It’s time to play Ortio as a starter an if he fails call up Gilles. No sense in sugar coating the facts that until Ramo/Hillar and a few vets are gone we can not afford afford high priced Number 1 without trading away the future.