Review Of NHL East Division Goaltenders: How The Capitals Netminders Stack Up Halfway Through The Season

The last two weeks have seen quite a few changes in the NHL East Division. The Capitals and Islanders have climbed atop the standings, while the Bruins and Flyers have dropped. The last two weeks have also seen significant change in goaltender play within the division. 

In this piece we’ll update our initial goaltenders assessment for the East Division from March 3. It includes all East Division goaltenders that have started at least four games so far this season.


The assessment will analyze and compare the East Division 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, with a composite score based on the aforementioned metrics.


The following chart plots the save percentage (Sv%) and goals against average (GAA) for each of the East Division goaltenders through games completed on March 17. (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-five goalies in save percentage (Sv%) and goals against average (GAA) include: Linus Ullmark (Sv% .937), Semyon Varlamov (.934 Sv%), Casey DeSmith (.934 Sv%), Scott Wedgewood (Sv% .928) and Igor Shesterkin (Sv% .923).

The good news for the Capitals is that both Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov continue to climb the ranks in the East. Vancek (.920) is 7th and Samsonov (.919) is 8th in save percentage in the East. Two weeks ago Samsonov was near the bottom of the Division with a .878 Sv% and Vanecek was smack-dab in the middle with a .907 Sv%.


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

xGA – GA

The following graph plots expected goals against (xGA) minus actual goals against (GA). (Click to enlarge)

Varlamov, DeSmith, Wedgewood, Ullmark and Shesterkin are the only East goaltenders with a positive rating for goals saved,above expected. As for the Capitals, Ilya Samsonov has a rating above the average of -3.624 at -2.75. Vitek Vanecek is below average -4.59.


The following graph plots goals saved above average (GSAA – blue) and the values from the previous graph (xGA – GA – orange). (Click to enlarge).

The following graph simply plots the data presented in the graph above. Again, the upper right quadrant represents the top tier in the division. (Click to enlarge).


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 29 games.

1. Semyon Varlamov (Islanders)
2. Casey DeSmith (Penguins)
3. Linus Ullmark (Sabres)
4. Scott Wedgewood (Devils)
5. Igor Shesterkin (Rangers)
6. Ilya Samsonov (Capitals)
7. Tristan Jarry (Penguins)
8. Vitek Vanecek (Capitals)
9. Ilya Sorokin (Rangers)
10. Jaroslav Halak (Bruins)


The last two weeks has seen some significant change in the rankings of the netminders. Here are the rankings compared:

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.
This entry was posted in News and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Review Of NHL East Division Goaltenders: How The Capitals Netminders Stack Up Halfway Through The Season

  1. Anonymous says:

    Caps netminders still climbing the list. Impressive. But can they be relied upon in the postseason? That’s the big question.

  2. Anonymous says:

    It’s amazing how fast/far Carter Hart has fallen. League must have exposed or figured out his weak spots. He was supposed to be next next great goaltender.

Leave a Reply