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Dipping into the Goaltending Numbers

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Cam Talbot has been a nice addition to the club. What can his early numbers tell us about the team?

Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most important acquisitions this off season has been netminder Cam Talbot who was acquired for a package of draft picks in June. There was a lot of chatter among Oiler fans, probably since last December when the team went into a free-fall, speculating who the next goalie would be. Both Ben Scrivens and Victor Fasth faltered, forcing the Oilers to make a move to improve a critical part of the roster.

After ten games this season, I think most can agree that Talbot, along with Anders Nilsson, have given the Oilers stability between the pipes. The defence in front of them has struggled mightily, a trend that has continued from previous seasons, but Talbot has made some very timely saves, giving the team a chance to at least stay in hockey games.

Taking a look into the first month of last season (October 1 - October 29), we actually see that Scrivens posted some similar even-strength numbers as Talbot has this season. That should't be of concern since we're dealing with a small sample size here, one that included Scrivens' four game win streak where his adjusted save percentage was close to 0.940, well above his career average. However, what we can uncover, are some underlying numbers that could indicate a team that's improving when it comes to shots allowed. Please note, I've included the ranking of each goalie among others who played a minimum of 250 minutes.

Goalie Record Adj Sv% Shots Faced/60
C. Talbot 2-5-0 90.66 (20th/24) 27.33
B. Scrivens 4-4-1 89.97 (24th/25) 30.76


We see here that both starting goalies had adjusted save percentages around 90%, which isn't great, with Scrivens seeing a lot more shots. If we dig into the location of shots, we learn more about each goalie as well as the entire team. I'm relying on the numbers from War on Ice for this, including their definition of shot location, displayed below.

Source: War on Ice

Low Danger
Goalie Total Shots Faced Goals Saves Save% Proportion of total shots
Talbot 78 1 77 98.72 49.06%
Scrivens 94 6 88 93.62 42.92%


Here we see that Scrivens allowed more low danger goals (remember those?) and was one of the worst goalies when faced with, really, non-threatening shots. Talbot has seen a higher proportion of those low danger shots, which could mean that the Oilers are forcing opponents to take those shots, which might not be a bad idea as their goalie can handle those.

Medium Danger
Goalie Total Shots Faced Goals Saves Save% Proportion of total shots
Talbot 37 4 33 89.19 23.27%
Scrivens 64 6 58 90.62 29.22%


Here we see both goalies having similar save percentages, but Scrivens seeing a higher quantity and a higher proportion of these types of shots than Talbot.

High Danger
Goalie Total Shots Faced Goals Saves Save% Proportion of total shots
Talbot 44 9 35 79.55 27.67%
Scrivens 61 10 51 85.71 27.85%


And finally, the most critical table. We see Scrivens faced more shots by this point last season, but saw an identical proportion of high danger shots as Talbot has this season. Keep in mind, the vast majority of goals are scored from this area, so (a) try to prevent these with, you know, good team defence, and (b) have a goalie that can stop these more often than not. Talbot's save% here is a little low, but I fully expect that to improve. What we can also confirm from this table is that the Oilers have, so far this season, shifted the shots-faced  away from the medium danger area (red in the diagram above) to the low danger area (yellow).

The problem is that they lead the league in the number of high danger scoring chances allowed, and are near the bottom when it comes to high danger chances per 60. They're also near the bottom of the league when it comes to the proportion of high danger chances, sitting at 42.3%. An improved defence might help, but it doesn't appear that the club is in any hurry.

Any thoughts, let me know.