If you're an avid reader of someone like Gabriel Desjardins, Tyler Dellow or Jonathan Willis you've already heard quite a lot about players and teams regressing to the mean. One such study was done by Tyler Dellow who looked at goaltending while on the penalty kill and found that goalies who had a high save percentage one year tended to regress in the following season. About this time last season I looked at goalies who had jumped out to a very good save percentage while penalty killing and predicted that they would, as a group, regress toward the mean and by the end of the year, each of the eight goaltenders who had started the year with a save percentage above .900 had seen their PK save percentage fall. Now, some fell further than others but a very high save percentage on the PK is an indication that a goaltender's overall save percentage has a good chance of declining as the season goes on and a very low save percentage on the PK is an indication that a goaltender's overall save percentage has a good chance of increasing as the season goes on. So which goalies have benefited by a high save percentage while penalty killing so far this season? We'll look at that after the jump.
For this study I looked at goalies who had faced at least 60 shots (mostly so that the study would be maximally relevant to the Oilers. 60 shots really isn't very many). One thing Tyler noted in his study was that a historical average for save percentage on the PK is about .866. I like to calculate "goals saved above/below average" and the number I'm using for "average" is that .866 figure. The two tables below are the goalies with a PK save percentage above .900, followed by goalies with a PK save percentage below .840. We should expect these goaltenders to regress somewhat toward .866 as the season goes on:
Now, I'm not trying to say is that there is no skill at all involved in save percentage while penalty killing. Surely there are some goalies who are good at it and others who are poor. Nevertheless, there are very few goalies who are this good and very few goalies who are this bad and there have been quite a few goaltenders who have jumped from one category to the other.
Last season only five goaltenders finished the year with a save percentage over .900 while facing over 100 shots. There were five others in 2007-08. On the other side, only eight goalies were worse than .840 over at least 100 shots last season and only six were worse than .840 over in 2007-08. Four goalies (Dan Ellis, Patrick Lalime, Alex Auld and Mathieu Garon) were on the "best" list one season and on the "worst" list in the other. So far this season we're seeing a very similar phenomenon. Jonas Hiller was on the "best" list in 2007-08 and is on the "worst" list so far this year. Brian Elliott was on the "worst" list last season but is on "best" list so far this year. There's a huge amount of variance, likely because the goalies are facing so few shots. This makes it very difficult to determine a goaltender's true skill, especially since it's quite difficult to know the exact impact the rest of the penalty killing unit has on the goaltender's performance.
So how will regression impact the Oilers? Well, Jeff Deslauriers' EV save percentage on .916 is currently tied for 33rd in the league (minimum of 100 shots) and if that ends up being a true indicator of his skill level, the Oilers aren't likely to be very happy. But at least they're not the Thrashers. Atlanta has really been leaning on Ondrej Pavelec so far this season and his overall save percentage of .914 looks respectable. However, as we can see in the table above, that's largely a product of his save percentage while penalty killing. At EV his save percentage of .908 is tied for 42nd. The Thrashers will likely need to have better goaltending than that if they hope to make the second season since, as a team, they've regularly been outshot.