Vesa Toskala: Does he really suck this much?

Vesa Toskala is a mystery to me. He's generally seen as a terrible goalie. But at even-strength, he's performed like a league-average goalie. If you believe in shot quality, he's faced tougher than average shots at 5-on-5 since he joined the Leafs, and he's stopped about as many as you might expect. He hasn't been very good a man down (890 SVPCT vs 907 league-wide), which has cost the Leafs about three wins over two seasons provided their awful defense didn't just give up a lot of shots from 10 feet out (I should check). Given that they're missed the playoffs by 14 and 11 points the last two years, Toskala's poor play on the PK is not their main problem.

But Toskala's been absolutely excruciatingly awful in four games this year. The Leafs are dead last in 5-on-5 save percentage and second-last at 4-on-5, ahead of only Dallas (take that, Marty Turco.) It's only been four games, but come on! An 812 save percentage? That usually gets you sent to the minors!

Let's look a little closer at what's happened. The typical shooting percentage at even-strength is 6.1% (remember, this includes all shots, including ones that miss the net.) Running through the location of the 114 even-strength shots Toskala has faced, I estimate that the expected shooting percentage against him should have been 6.97%, or approximately eight goals against. In reality, he gave up 11.

So if we assume that Toskala is a league-average goaltender, what are the odds that he gave up 11 goals instead of the expected 8 just by luck? 16.7%. In other words, if six league-average goaltenders faced the same shots as Toskala, one of them would have done as badly as he has. This doesn't mean he's league-average, but it's not really an indication that he's any worse than we thought he was two weeks ago.

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