Power Ranking Jordan Binnington and the Remaining Stanley Cup Playoff Goalies
William Purnell, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Jordan Binnington
- NHL Goalies are one of the hardest positions in sports to project.
- Sean Zerillo breaks down the statistical profiles of the eight remaining starting goaltenders in the NHL Playoffs and what bettors should know about each player.
A common trait amongst successful Stanley Cup playoff teams of the past has been to have a goalie get hot at the right time.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, also known as “Jiggy,” was an above-average goaltender who earned a career mark of 2.44 goals against average with a .916 save percentage.
In the 2002-03 NHL season, after posting regular season stats of 2.30 and .920 in those same categories, Jiggy went on the run of a lifetime in the playoffs. Over 21 games he allowed 1.62 goals per game on a .945 save percentage with a 15-6 record; leading Anaheim to within one win of capturing the Stanley Cup (New Jersey won in Game 7 of the finals).
Jiggy posted some middling save percentages (.914, .911, .918) over the next three seasons, before responding with his career year in 2007-08 (2.12 goals-against average, .922 save percentage), and continuing that run in the playoffs (13-4, 1.97 goals-against average, .922 save percentage) until his name was engraved on the Cup forever.
In the first round of the 2019 NHL playoffs, teams with the advantage in the goalie matchup tended to pull out the series win:
taking stock of 1st round goaltending matchup outcomes
NYI>>PIT, DAL>>NSH, VGK>>SJ were largest projected advantages & all 3 delivered, TB>>CBJ did not!
COL>CGY & STL>WPG had modest edges, both held true
WSH=CAR & TOR=BOS were projected toss-ups, true WSH-CAR but Rask>Andersen pic.twitter.com/muZGdtlTkO
— Cole Anderson (@ice_cole_data) April 25, 2019
Amongst the final eight playoff teams, which goalie is most (and least) likely to help to carry his team to a championship?
Five on Five Save Percentage
Going by the most basic of goalie advanced metrics, Blues rookie Jordan Binnington topped all goalies in the NHL this season.
The 25-year-old, who is playing on a one-year, two-way contract after an extended stint in the AHL, finished the 2019 season with the best save percentage amongst all goalies at even strength (minimum 1,000 minutes played) and a 24-5-1 record; helping to lift the Blues from the bottom of the NHL standings to within one point of winning the Central division.
Conversely, Martin Jones finished 2019 with the worst save percentage at 5-on-5 amongst the goalies remaining in the playoffs. One contributing factor was Jones’ low save percentage on high-danger scoring chances, at just 78.8%.
Several other goalies remaining in the playoff hunt, Ben Bishop (1st, 87.8%), Binnington (3rd, 86.6%), Petr Mrazek (4th, 86.6%), and Sergei Bobrovsky (6th, 85.3%) finished in the Top 6 amongst all goalies at turning away high-danger chances.
Expected Save Percentage, and Delta Between Actual and Expected
Expected save percentage tells a bit of a different story, particularly for Martin Jones who shouldn’t be considered so far below the rest of the pack here. Jones had the largest difference (-0.24) between his expected and actual save percentages.
Similarly, Binnington outperformed expectations by the highest margin, and while the remainder of his stats suggest that he is an above average goaltender, he also isn’t suddenly the best at his position in the NHL.
Philipp Grubauer and Tuukka Rask are tied at the top of the expected save percentage list, and both severely underperformed against their career marks this season: Grubauer (.917 vs. .923); Rask (.912 vs. .921).
Notably, Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who owns a career .920 save percentage and is widely considered one of the best at his position in the NHL, is closer to Martin Jones, both by actual and expected to save rates, than he is to the upper tier of remaining playoff goalies.
Try telling that to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who only scored 8 goals on 117 shots against Bobrovsky (.932 save percentage) while being swept in the first round of the playoffs.
Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA), And GSAA Per 30 Shots
Due to a higher volume of games and minutes played than Binnington, Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner stood out in terms of total Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA).
A popular way to convert GSAA to a rate state is to calculate it out on a per 30 shot basis for each goaltender.
After doing so for the remaining playoff goalies, they line up in exactly the same order (1-8) as they do in even-strength save percentage – with Binnington clearly back at the head of the pack.
The fact that Martin Jones was worth roughly three-quarters of one goal against the Sharks per 30 shots from the opposition tells you everything that you need to know about how shaky he can be.
Except that it also doesn’t because Martin Jones is a complete playoff enigma, and he plays stretches where he is both at the very top and the very bottom of these power rankings.
— x – San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) April 19, 2019
Interestingly, 65% of the playoff goals scored against the remaining playoff goalies have been shot either blocker side high or glove side high. Taller goalies, like Ben Bishop or Robin Lehner, are great at covering low with their large bodies but remain just as vulnerable as anyone else to a snipe over their shoulder:
Conversely, Martin Jones has vulnerabilities all over the net:
Final Rankings and Conclusions
I formulated this list through a composite ranking of each goaltender by various metrics and struggled mightily not to move Bobrovsky up higher. The 30-year-old Russian came into this season as one of the league’s strongest goalies but he hiccuped a little bit in 2018-19 and that is moving him down here.
- Ben Bishop (DAL)
- Jordan Binnington (STL)
- Robin Lehner (NYI)
- Tuukka Rask (BOS)
- Philipp Grubauer (COL)
- Petr Mrazek (CAR)
- Sergei Bobrovsky (CBJ)
- Martin Jones (SJ)
Based upon this list, the Stars, Islanders, Bruins, and Avalanche should each have the goaltending edge in Round 2.
Hockey data analyst Cole Anderson, who incorporates important rebound metrics into his analysis, sees the Round 2 matchups in the same way:
2nd round goaltending matchups and projected % of series each team will have goaltending edge, with 1st round games overlayed on top of the season-long distribution of performances
NYI, DAL, COL with all with edges greater than 57%
BOS-CBJ closer, though slight edge BOS at 52% pic.twitter.com/wwYRaCRyEa
— Cole Anderson (@ice_cole_data) April 25, 2019
I’m sitting on a Stanley Cup futures ticket with the St. Louis Blues and already cashed a series moneyline ticket in their first-round matchup against Winnipeg.
I was extremely excited to rollover that bet into another series bet against the Stars, but now I’m hesitant.
Statistically, Ben Bishop is the most solid goaltender remaining in the playoff hunt, which is amusing for two reasons: (1) Goaltending has been the biggest weak point on the Dallas Stars, by far, for several seasons; and (2) the eliminated Tampa Bay Lightning traded Bishop away to make room for Andrei Vasilevsky.
With his former understudy now sitting at home for the summer, Bishop has a chance to lead Dallas to the title that eluded him during his time with the Lightning.
First, he’ll have to get through his former team, the St. Louis Blues (Bishop also played for the Junior Blues) and the No. 2 goalie on this list, Jordan Binnington.
Otherwise, Bishop and the Stars will be hearing “Gloria” in their nightmares.