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System or Ondrej Pavelec: Who is causing the Jets improved goals against

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The Jets goals against have severely reduced.

Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Last offseason we used statistics and shot location to study why the Winnipeg Jets were allowing an above average amount of goals against for even strength minutes (you can read it here). It was not uncommon to see Jet fans argue past one another on who to blame.

The numbers suggested both sides were right; that Pavelec was the major cause and that the Jets were below average in other areas beyond their starting goaltender.

Things are different now. The Winnipeg Jets allow the league's seventh lowest goals against per minute for 5-on-5. Instead of asking who is to blame for below average results, the question now lies in wondering where has this improvement come from...

Is it system? Is it Pavelec? Is it a mix?

We'll use many of the same methods as the previous study and turn to where the Jets have improved.

Shot Quality

Shot location is one of the major drivers of shooting percentage inflation and deflation. While there are issues with the NHL's precision in recording shot location (note: precision does not equal accuracy), scorer's bias can be reduced by looking at away games. In the end, the method does a reasonable job with having "high-quality" shots with about a 14% shooting percentage and "low-quality" shots with about a 3% shooting percentage

Year SA High Qual% Δ High Qual% Δ SA Δ GA
2014-15 286 48.6% +3.20% +9.2 +1.26

The Jets have actually had a greater percentage of their even strength shots against in the "home-plate" area this season with Pavelec on the ice than the year prior. The change is nearly a full standard deviation of the league's typical distribution. Despite this large change, they have only allowed about nine "high-quality" shots extra than last seasons average.

Using league average shooting percentage for shots in the slot, this estimates one single goal against.

The numbers seems contrary to what many are saying about the Jets defense. It is not unusual for media, fans, and coaches to cite improved defensive play in reducing quality as why a team may be riding higher than normal save percentages. This is not proof that they are wrong, but it does suggest that it is a strong possibility.

Shot Quantity

It is far easier to estimate the effects of shot quantity than shot quality. It's also been shown to be far more sustainable for a team to succeed or fail in.

TOI SA/60 Δ SA/60 Δ SA Δ GA
910.02 28.0 -1.5 -22.75 -1.80

Here lies the fruits of Paul Maurice's improved defensive system. The Jets have reduced shots against by a full 1.5 per sixty minutes of 5-on-5 play. This marks an improvement of seven spots in the NHL, moving from 20th ranked to 13th.

The end results are not dramatic either, with reducing shots against by about one a game, or around 23 in total. On average, this decrease in shots against would lead to a reduction of two goals against.

While the results are not huge, it is a step in the right direction. As league numbers begin to normalize as the season progresses, this advantage may increase.

This exercise is for even strength only, but it should be noted the Jets are currently the second best team in the league for suppressing shots against on the penalty kill. This will likely have a very large impact on the Jets goals against.

Ondrej Pavelec

We have already written on the subject that Pavelec's results have been very positive so far this season. With the data available from looking at shot quality, it could be interesting to see if Pavelec's improvement has been with the "high" or "low" quality shots.

Type Save% Δ Sv% Δ GA
Low Quality 0.986 +0.023 -5.31
High Quality 0.871 +0.029 -4.03

Pavelec's improvement from last season is eerily similar in both high and low quality shots. Given the same number of shots against Pavelec has currently faced, the improved save percentage has improved the Jets by about nine less goals against.

The Czech netminder posted career low numbers last season, so some bounce back was likely; however, these numbers are pretty impressive. His save percentage for "home-plate" shots is around league average after being slightly below last year. The big change is in the other shots against; currently Pavelec has allowed half as many goals against typical for those shots.

Summary

All the evidence combined suggests that the Jets even strength improvements for goals against is predominately due to Pavelec performing well, not system play. While the Jets have improved in decreasing shots against, they still have some ways to go.

These numbers are only estimates, but they do all seem to paint a similar picture.

However, these results still do not mean that Pavelec will sustain his current positive trend and that this is a long-term improvement. The only way we can start thinking that is once Pavelec begins to sustain these positive results for far longer than what is typical for him.