The Washington Capitals have completed 52 games of their 2o21-22 regular season schedule and amassed a record 28-15-9 (65 points). That’s currently good enough for fourth place in the Metropolitan Division. They are four points behind the Rangers in third place and seven points behind the Hurricanes in first.
With a little more than 63% of the regular season now in the books, and the Capitals enjoying a week-off for the remainder of the previously scheduled Olympic break, it’s a good time to take our fourth in-depth look at the Capitals’ goaltenders and their performance through the first 52 games.
[The first goaltender analysis of the season was conducted after 12 games and can be found here. The second analysis was done after 26 games and can be found here. The third analysis conducted after 37 games can be found here.]
Before we begin, If you’d like to learn more about the analytical terms used in this post, please feel free to check out our NHL Analytics Glossary. Data in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, MoneyPuck, NoVa Caps Analytics Model and NHL.com.
The first table in the performance assessment presents the basic stats for each goaltender through the first 52 games of the season.
Vitek Vanecek was 4-2-0 since the last assessment on January 13. He improved his save percentage from .907 to .915 and reduced his goals against average from 2.62 GAA to 2.39 GAA, but was also injured in the Pittsburgh game on February 1 and has not played since then.
Ilya Samsonov was 4-4-0 since the last assessment in January. His save percentage improved slightly from .903% to .906% but his GAA went up slightly from 2.76 to 2.84 GAA. His game and his corresponding stats have improved slightly since the last assessment, but as you will see, he still sits below league average in many statistical categories.
A big part of a goaltenders won-loss record is the goal support he gets in each game. In other words, how are the Capitals performing, offensively, each time the netminder steps on the ice.
The goal support statistic has leveled-off and relatively equalized for both netminders, as expected. The Capitals have scored 11 more goals than they have given up when Vaencek is on the ice. Samsonov has one more ‘goal for’ in his games. It’s basically a wash, which provides additional context for the overall assessment.
The next table dives a little deeper into the basic stats, and looks at shots against, the expected goals and goals differential, high-danger saves and rebound shot attempts for all situations, averaged for each game the goaltender has played so far this season.
The stats continue to favor Vanecek in a majority of the advanced metrics. Vanecek has the better total goals differential (xGA – GA) and high-danger save percentage, although Samsonov has faced the higher expected goals per game.
Strength of Opposition
Basic goaltending stats typically leave out a lot of important context. First and foremost, what kind of teams has the goaltender faced to amass his statistics and overall record? Has he faced a majority of the top teams in the league? or has he played a majority of his games against cellar dwellers? All of that factors into the overall performance evaluation of a goaltender.
The first table presents the average stats for the opposing goaltenders entering (before) games against each of the Capitals goaltenders.
Samsonov has faced netminders with a slightly better save percentage and slightly better goals against average, but the difference is very slight.
The next table presents the average possession metrics at even strength for opposing teams entering games against each goaltender.
Vanecek has faced teams with slightly better possession metrics, although Samsonov has faced teams with better scoring chances for percentages, but lower shooting percentages. Vanecek has faced teams with a better average winning percentage, but the difference is slight.
Game Data For Opposition
The next table presents the average game stats for opposing netminders when facing each of the Capitals goaltenders (5v5).
Vanecek has opposed goaltenders that have faced more shots per game than opposing netminders that faced Samsonov.
Samsonov’s opposing netminders have had a poorer save percentage when he’s on the ice. Vanecek’s opposing goaltenders have a better goals differential (xGA – GA).
COMPARED TO THE LEAGUE
This section of the analysis takes a look at the Capitals netminders in relation to the remainder of the league. In other words, how does their performance stack up against the league’s netminders.
The following graphic plots the even-strength save percentage for all NHL goaltenders with 500 or more minutes of ice time. [Click to enlarge].
Vanecek continues to do fairly well during even-strength situations and has the fourth-best even-strength save percentage in the league right now.
Ilya Samsonov is still below the league average of .919, but has improved since the last analysis.
High-Danger Save Percentage
The next graph plots the high-danger save percentages at even strength for all goaltenders with 500 or more minutes played.
Once again Vitek Vanecek has been among the league’s best when it comes to high-danger saves, and has the fourth-best HDSV% in the league. He has improved from .798 in the last assessment to .871 after 52 games.
Ilya Samsonov remains well below league average, but has slightly improved since the 37-game assessment. He has gone from .779 to .799.
Goals Differential (xGA – GA)
The next graph plots the difference in expected goals and actual goals against during even strength play.
Vanecek continues to be above the league average of .656 and greatly improved since the 37-game evaluation. He’s improved from 3.59 to 6.31 since the last assessment.
Samsonov is still below average, however he has also shown significant improvement since the last analysis. He’s improved from -4.42 to -0.44 since the last assessment.
Penalty Kill Save Percentage
The final league comparison graph looks at save percentages during the penalty kill (4v5).
The is the one area where Vitek Vanecek has struggled this season. He remains below the league average, although it should be noted that he has improved and was well below the league average in the last assessment.
Ilya Samsonov has slipped. He was well above the league average at the 37-game assessment and now is well below league average.
COMPARED TO THE METROPOLITAN DIVISION
The following graph narrows the focus to the Metropolitan Division. It includes all Metro goaltenders with 500+ minutes at five-on-five.
The divisional averages are delineated by the thin red lines, with the upper right quadrant representing the divisions top netminders in this category. [Click to Enlarge]
Vitek Vanecek remains in the upper right quadrant. In fact you can barely see his GAA bubble because it’s so small when compared to the remainder of the Metro.
Ilya Samsonov has improved and is very near the average for the division in both save percentage and goals differential.
Most would agree that the Capitals still don’t “officially” have a number one goaltender. In fact, one could easily argue the team is no closer to deciding a number one starter than they were when they opened training camp for the previous season.
Statistically that’s not the case, as Vitek Vanecek has separated himself from Samsonov in almost every statistical category, and he even ranks well in the league and within the Metropolitan Division.
The Capitals continue to give Samsonov every opportunity for the first round draft pick to make his case. The question remains, how much longer will the chances be provided? We’ll find out between now and the trade deadline on March 21.
The contracts for both goaltenders expire at the end of the season. Samsonov will be a restricted free agent while Vanecek will be an unrestricted free agent.
By Jon Sorensen