How Hard is It to Find Good NHL Goaltending?

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Is Jacob Markstrom still good?

Whether you come at hockey from the numbers or from traditional scouting, finding NHL-quality goaltending is a challenge. In order to have a good sense of a goalie’s talent (as measured by even-strength Sv%), you need to observe about 4,000 shots worth of work. On average, a goalie needs to play over three seasons as a starter (or eight seasons as a backup) to see that many shots. If they play poorly, few netminders will ever get close to that amount of playing time and most goalies are entering age-related decline by the time they’ve seen that many shots. As such, teams usually make decisions on goaltenders long before they’ve seen 4,000 shots and, unsurprisingly, teams make mistakes.

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Some Things to Know about One-Goal Games

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One of these teams will probably win by one goal.

Last season, as hockey analysts struggled to explain how a possession-dominant Kings team failed to make the playoffs while Anaheim and Vancouver topped 100 points, there was a lot of discussion surrounding the role of one-goal games in the standings. LA’s disappointing season was largely dismissed as bad luck, with an argument that went something like this: the outcome of a one-goal game is effectively random, and the Kings’ 13-9-15 record in these games (against the 33-1-7 and 22-4-5 performances of the Ducks and Canucks, respectively) was the difference in keeping them out of the postseason. I wasn’t entirely convinced by this, but it got me thinking about the randomness of close contests. How random are one-goal games, and how significant a problem is this for people trying to use numbers to understand why some teams win and others don’t?

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