Did the Winnipeg Jets' Coaching Staff Optimize their Goaltenders?

Marianne Helm

Did starting Ondrej Pavelec 43 times between the pipes this season help the Winnipeg Jets, or hurt them?

We've said it before and we'll say it again: with league-average goaltending, the Winnipeg Jets would have likely been a playoff team in the NHL's Eastern Conference. Admittedly, I've been one of Ondrej Pavelec's harsher critics around these parts, but I'm not going to harp much on the Winnipeg Jets' starting goaltender again; after all, we've beaten that horse deader than Jesus -- and he died twice. If you believe in that sort of thing. Whatever.

Instead, I am going to come to the Winnipeg Jets' goaltenders' defense this time (sort of) and ask the question: Did Claude Noel and the Winnipeg Jets' coaching staff utilize the goaltenders at their disposal as best they could? Put another way, were the Winnipeg Jets' goaltenders good enough and simply thwarted by poor utilization by the Jets' coaching staff? Let's find out.

First, let's take a look at the Jets' overall goaltending picture:

According to NHL.com, there were 41,964 shots on goal this season and 3,822 goals. However, since we're evaluating goalies, we should eliminate the 138 empty-net goals scored this season, leaving us with 3,684 goals on 41,826 shots. Some basic arithmetic [(41,826-3,684)/41,826] tells us that NHL goaltenders had an average save percentage of about .912% across the league.

The Winnipeg Jets' goaltenders, meanwhile, gave up 136 goals on 1,419 shots against for an underwhelming .904% save percentage. This news should hardly come as shocking or revelatory, but here goes again: the Winnipeg Jets' goaltending was well below league average this season. The Jets' goaltenders' save percentage ranked 23rd in the NHL and was nearly a full standard deviation below the mean, a feat three teams - -New Jersey, Calgary, and Florida -- managed to accomplish. The bottom line here is obvious: the Winnipeg Jets' goaltenders weren't good enough this season. We already knew that, and as I said above, I'm not going to harp on it.

Did the Jets' coaching staff utilize their goaltenders properly?

No.

Seriously? You think that's good enough? Explain Yourself!

Okay, fine, if you insist. Ondrej Pavelec started 43 of 48 games this season and appeared in one relief appearance. Backup goaltender Al Montoya, meanwhile, started just five games.

The sheer volume of games played is not the issue here, but rather the frequency of games played. More specifically, the problem is that Ondrej Pavelec started seven games this season on the second half of back-to-back sets (i.e. zero days rest). The following table shows Ondrej Pavelec's 2012-2013 statistics, categorized by how much rest Pavelec received prior to starting.

Days Rest

GP

GS

MIN

W

L

OTL

Points %

GAA

SA

SV

SV%

0 Days Rest

7

7

350

2

5

0

29%

4.11

203

179

0.882

1 Day Rest

26

26

1574

14

9

3

60%

2.55

742

675

0.910

2 Days Rest

5

5

303

3

2

0

60%

2.18

158

147

0.930

3 Days+

6

5

326

2

4

0

33%

3.13

148

131

0.885

The problem with playing Pavelec so frequently on the second-half of back-to-back sets, as you can see, is that Ondrej Pavelec plays quite poorly in these situations. This isn't a criticism of Pavelec; rather, nearly every goalie performs worse in the second game of a back-to-back set. Pavelec is no different from any other net minder in that regard.

The question is, did Claude Noel know that? I'm not sure, but he certainly should have. The following table shows Ondrej Pavelec's career NHL statistics, categorized by how much rest Pavelec received prior to starting.

Situation

GP

GS

MIN

W

L

OTL

Points %

GA

GAA

SA

SV

SV%

0 Days Rest

19

17

977

3

15

0

17%

67

4.11

514

447

0.870

1 Day Rest

87

87

5051

42

29

14

58%

220

2.61

2533

2313

0.913

2 Days Rest

39

36

2276

20

13

3

60%

86

2.27

1229

1143

0.930

3 Days Rest

43

39

2296

13

22

4

38%

128

3.34

1166

1038

0.890

*Points % applies only to games in which Ondrej Pavelec was given a decision.

Again, those back-to-back sets aren't pretty. For you curious souls, Ondrej Pavelec's save percentage excluding the second game of back-to-backs is .912%. That's still below average, but tolerable (if he didn't get paid like a star).

Question Time

The million dollar questions, of course, are:

1. Did Claude Noel and the Winnipeg Jets' coaching staff know how poorly Ondrej Pavelec performs in the second game of back-to-backs?

2. If the answer is yes, why did Claude Noel continue to start Pavelec in back-to-back games when he was clearly not the team's best option?

3. If Noel and the rest of the coaching staff were not aware of Pavelec's subpar performance in back-to-backs, why the hell not? Isn't it their job to know these things? (I'll help you here; yes it is.)

Fun with Numbers

(note that what follows is entirely speculative and simply done out of curiosity)

Just for fun, let's suppose that the Jets had started Al Montoya in Ondrej Pavelec's 7 back-to-back starts, and:

A) Al Montoya would have played true to his career average save percentage (a .906%) in those games.

B) Al Montoya would have played true to his career average save percentage on three games rest.

C) Al Montoya would have played true to his career average save percentage in games started on three games rest.

Ondrej Pavelec faced 203 shots in those seven starts and made 179 saves. Depending on the scenario, hypothetical Al Montoya would have saved 184-187 of them, meaning that the Winnipeg Jets would have given up 5-8 fewer goals in the 2012-2013 season. Is that enough to make the playoffs? Probably not. But it's likely worth two additional points and maybe, just maybe, makes the Jets a playoff team.

More Fun with Numbers

Now let's suppose that:

A) Ondrej Pavelec's "days rest count" is adjusted for each game that Al Montoya hypothetically starts in Pavelec's place.

B) Ondrej Pavelec's save percentage in those games is true to his career average for each "days rest" situation.

  • Example: suppose Ondrej Pavelec's started games on April 22, 23, and 25. Al Montoya would start the April 23 game, the second half of the back-to-back set. When Ondrej Pavelec starts on April 25, he has had two days rest and his save percentage is .930%.

In five of the seven games Ondrej Pavelec started on zero days rest, hypothetical Pavelec would have been starting on two days rest. In the remaining two games, Pavelec would have been starting with three days rest. Ondrej Pavelec faced 194 shots in those games. Real Ondrej Pavelec stopped 176 of them. Hypothetical, well-rested Ondrej Pavelec would have saved 178 of them.

Overall, in just half a season, hypothetical, well-rested Ondrej Pavelec and Al Montoya saved 7-10 more goals than real Pavelec and Montoya. Is that enough to make the Jets a playoff team? Perhaps, perhaps not.

The exact number of goals isn't what matters though. What matters is that it's common knowledge that goaltenders struggle in back-to-backs. I knew it, you knew it, the media knew it, everyone knew it. Hell, we all talked Pavelec's performance and workload during the season. That memo was sent a long time ago. Some teams got it; for example Jonathan Quick didn't start a single back-to-back this season, Evgeni Nabokov started 41 games but only one back-to-back set, and Tuukka Rask's two back-to-back starts both came in fighting for home ice advantage in late April.

The Winnipeg Jets' coaching staff apparently didn't get the memo though, and they didn't optimize the utilization of their goaltenders either. But given the concerning usage of players up-and-down their line-up, this should come as no surprise.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Arctic Ice Hockey

You must be a member of Arctic Ice Hockey to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Arctic Ice Hockey. You should read them.

Join Arctic Ice Hockey

You must be a member of Arctic Ice Hockey to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Arctic Ice Hockey. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9355_tracker