Cam Talbot's first 10 games as the Oilers starter haven't been great as he's currently holding a 89.3% adjusted save percentage. Of the 25 goalies who have played a minimum of 350 minutes at even-strength this season (roughly eight games), Talbot ranks 23rd, only ahead of Sergei Bobrovsky and Chad Johnson (Source: War on Ice)
Before I get into this further, a couple things I want to note:
- The Oilers need Talbot to provide average goaltending. Doesn't have to be elite. Just average. And the average adjusted save percentage among goalies with more than 1,300 minutes (roughly 30 games) last season and the season prior were 92.2% and 92.3% respectively.
- I like Talbot as a long term bet. The acquisition cost was reasonable. He shouldn't command a huge contract. And he's just entering that age when goalies peak. More about Talbot can be found at Because Oilers and Blue Shirt Banter.
- Lastly, like in any other subject matter regardless of industry, there is plenty beyond the data and analytics that's waiting to be uncovered. Goalie stats especially are an excellent starting point that can drive the discourse, including the understanding and assessment of the position. The data available to us can shed light on the subject, but it's only meaningful if it can lead to more questions and the pursuit of further knowledge. Just my two cents.
First off, here's how Talbot has done in his first 10 games at even-strength as a starter in Edmonton. I'm using War on Ice's definition of low, medium and high danger areas.
Talbot faces an average rate of shots, but has the worst save percentage for medium danger shots compared to other goalies who have played eight games. He's okay at handling high danger and low danger shots.
Two very good comparables in terms of historical performance and age are Ben Bishop and Cory Schneider. Both of these fellows are established NHL goalies and were also solid backups with very good underlying numbers before they were acquired by a team that needed a starter.
Both Bishop and Schneider had very solid adjusted save percentages early in their careers, similar to Talbot, so I thought I'd dig out how they performed in their first 10 games as starters. I've also included Talbot's first 10 games as the starter in New York last season when Henrik Lundqvist dealt with a serious injury (between February 2, 2015 and March 28, 2015). Here's what I found.
Bishop posted some very nice numbers in his first 10 games as the starter in Tampa Bay. But Schneider's start with New Jersey and Talbot's own stint as New York's starter are closer to Talbot's performance this season.
Can we say that without a doubt Cam Talbot is going to improve his adjusted save percentage? Nope. But we can at least look at two other very similar goalies, as well as his own experience in New York to give us some confidence that his performance will improve as the season goes on.
One other factor to consider is the travel involved when playing in Edmonton. Already this season, Talbot and the Oilers have travelled 11,779 km (Source: On the Forecheck). The Rangers, who tend to have an easier travel schedule, have only traveled 6,336 km. The good news is, Todd McLellan knows all about tough travel schedules, as the San Jose Sharks typically ranked in the top five of most kilometers traveled. This might be why he's giving Anders Nilsson ample ice time, similar to how he handled Antti Niemi in his first season as a Shark.
Regardless, I have full confidence that Talbot will bounce back and have an average save percentage by the end of the season. And It'd help if the Oilers can improve from their 46.9% adjusted Corsi (27th in the league) and 42.7% high-danger scoring chances (worst in the league right now).