Review Of East Division Goaltenders: How Do Capitals Netminders Stack Up Against East Division Goaltenders

As we predicted prior to the start of the season, the NHL’s East Division has proven to be the most competitive of the four new divisions designated for this unique 56-game season. After the first 21 games, the goal differential between the top team and the bottom team in the East is by far the least of all four divisions.

In this piece we will take a look at all East Division goaltenders that have started at least one game so far this season, and assess how they compare with each of their brethren backstops within the division.

We will analyze and compare the goaltenders utilizing the following netminder metrics:

  • Save Percentage (Sv%)
  • Goals Against Average (GAA)
  • Goals Saved Above Expected (xGA – GA)
  • Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA)

The post will conclude with a ranking of each of the goaltenders based on a composite score of the aforementioned metrics.


The following chart plots the basic stats for each of the East Division netminders, including save percentage (Sv%) and goals against average (GAA), through games completed on March 2. (Click to enlarge).

Goaltenders in the upper right quadrant of the graph represent the top tier in the East Division (to date) with regards to these statistics. The top-six goalies in save percentage (Sv%) and goals against average (GAA) include Brian Elliott (Flyers), Semyon Varlomov (Islanders), Mackenzie Blackwood (Devils), Linus Ullmark (Sabres), Igor Shesterkin (Rangers) and Ilya Sorokin (Islanders).

As for the Capitals netminders, Vitek Vanecek remains near the center of the chart, just above average in Sv% and just below average in GAA. Ilya Samsonov is in the bottom left quadrant, but working his way up after just three starts. Craig Anderson’s single outing has him at the bottom of the East Division in save percentage and goals against average.


Two more essential metrics for evaluating netminders are ‘goals saved above expected’ and ‘goals saved above average’. Goals saved above expected is simply the difference between expected goals against and actual goals against. Goals saved above average takes each goaltenders metrics and compares to stats for the average of all netminders in the league.

The following graph plots expected goals against (xGA) minus actual goals against (GA) (Orange), also known as goals saved above expected. It also plots goals saved above average (GSAA – blue). (Click to enlarge).

Again, Brian Elliott leads in these metrics, followed by Semyon Varlomov and Linus Ullmark. As for the Capitals netminders, Vitek Vanecek is above average for both categories.

We can sum the values from the graph above to ascertain a single value for netminder ratings.

As a result, here are our final rankings of East Division’s goaltenders after 21 games. (Netminders with few starts are filtered out).


1. Brian Elliott (Flyers)
2. Semyon Varlomov (Islanders)
3. Linus Ullmark (Sabres)
4. Mackenzie Blackwood (Devils)
5. Vitek Vanecek (Capitals)
6. Ilya Sorokin (Islanders)
7. Alexander Giorgiev (Rangers)
8. Casey DeSmith (Penguins)
9. Igor Shesterkin (Rangers)
10. Jonas Johansson (Sabres)

We will revisit these stats in 10 games or so, to track trends and see how the division is shaping up for the run to the finish.

Stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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7 Responses to Review Of East Division Goaltenders: How Do Capitals Netminders Stack Up Against East Division Goaltenders

  1. Marky says:

    Vitek Vanacek is holding his own! Dude is a keeper…unless Seattle snags him. 🙁

  2. Marky says:

    There’s a chance that he’s overlooked for sure with so many players available to Ron Francis but they might have to give up a 3 or 4th rounder to have Ron not draft him. This is a small sample and there will be a lot of netminders to choose from but you never know.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      I agree to a certain extent. But remember, they will likely take best player available. Vegas ended up with like a dozen defensemen in their draft, which they used for deals to address other team needs. I think we will lose a defenseman before we lose a goaltender.

      • Marky says:

        That’s right they did…
        They would get a decent one from us (Orlov, Dillon, etc…) but that also helps us free up cap space which we sorely need this offseason.

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