Ben Scrivens vs. the NHL

So our fact-finder Rob Pettapiece over at NHL Numbers has written a post about AHL goaltenders. Using a tested and true baseball method of looking at how these goalies did against NHL competition, we can come up with a much better metric than simply “save percentage” for evaluating how they played.

Of course, like most goaltenders, there’s still little predictive value, but in the case of Ben Scrivens, say, is there a better goalie than we initially thought? Do we have a goaltender who fared better against NHL competition with the Marlies than he did against AHL competition?

In June, I wrote that Scrivens had the fourth best save percentage among AHL goaltenders who faced more than 1500 shots over the last two seasons.

Unfortunately, the simple answer is no. If you click on the link, you find that Scrivens isn’t even found in the Top 10 of goaltenders in save percentage against NHLers, straggling behind even the most ‘AHL’ goalies such as Cedrick Desjardins or Michael Leighton.

Scrivens was fifth in the AHL in overall save percentage. He was first in goals against average, but that’s largely a team-based metric. The best way to determine goaltender value, ideally, is even strength save percentage on the road. Unfortunately the AHL doesn’t split its data like the NHL does.

Here are the Top Five, plus No. 15:

Rank Name Team Shots SV% Age
1 Eddie Läck Chicago 529 0.922 23
2 Jeff Zatkoff Manchester 390 0.921 24
3 Michael Leighton Adirondack 552 0.920 30
4 Jacob Markstrom San Antonio 403 0.918 21
5 Dustin Tokarski Norfolk 475 0.918 22
15 Ben Scrivens Toronto 570 0.910 25

This doesn’t include Scrivens’ .903 save percentage against NHL opponents while in the NHL.

The other worrying thing is Scrivens’ age. I’m unaware on the literature as to when goaltenders peak, but I have to think that if you aren’t an NHL regular by a certain time, it’s unlikely that you’ll live in the future.

There are several caveats with this method, as Rob points out:

Shots can be attributed to the wrong player or miscounted entirely by the in-house scorekeeper, so there may be additional hidden inaccuracies here. And future versions of this analysis will remove empty-net goals, which shouldn’t be in here but are hopefully rare and random enough that they don’t unfairly penalize anyone.

The other thing is that special teams play is unfortunately disregarded in minor league shot counts, presumably because they want to make life a pain for their amateur statistical analysts.

This whole post may be a few too many words to spilled to say, in the end “maybe Ben Scrivens isn’t an NHL starting goalie” because it’s not like its anything we didn’t know. He should get some good minutes in the AHL while the season is shortened due to a lockout, and if Brian Burke doesn’t come up with a good option, he’s honestly as good of a choice as any to back up James Reimer when the season starts.