On the surface, the Capitals-Panthers series has been about as even as it can be. The series is tied, 2-2, with the Capitals stealing the first game late in the third period in Florida and the Panthers returning the favor late in Game 4 at Capital One Arena on Monday. The middle two games were split-blowouts at 5-1 and 6-1, respectively.
But if we dig a little deeper, statistically, the differing strengths and weaknesses of both teams has begun to emerge. One of the differing areas is goaltending, and to some surprise, the Capitals are on top.
Goaltending was arguably the Capitals biggest concern coming into the series. The team juggled Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov with moderate success for the better part of two seasons, without a decisive first-stringer emerging.
However, the play of Ilya Samsonov in the early going of the Panthers series has proven to be very encouraging for the Capitals chances at moving on (Key phrase “early going”). Lets take a look at the basic stats for Sergei Bobrovsky and Ilya Samsonov and see how each of the netminders has done through the first four games of the series.
[Data utilized in this post is provided by Natural Stat Trick, NHL.com and NoVa Caps’ Advanced Analytics Model. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about the terms in the post you can check out our NHL Analytics Glossary.]
Basic Stats At Even-Strength
The first graph simply plots the basic stats for Ilya Samsonov and Sergei Bobrovsky at even strength (five-on-five) through the first four games of the series. [Click to enlarge].
Ilya Samsonov is dominating all of the basic stats at even strength. He leads in save percentage (sv%), goals against average (GAA), high-danger save percentage (hdsv%) and goals above expected (xGA – GA). Bobrovsky leads in just low-danger save percentage.
We could end the discussion right there, but let’s dig a little deeper and add a little more context.
Basic Stats At All Strengths
The next graph simply adds data for all situations, including power plays, four-on-four and six-on-five situations. [Click to enlarge].
Once again, Ilya Samsonov is leading by a clear margin in most of the key categories. In fact, it really isn’t even close at this point.
Among Other Playoff Goaltenders
So Ilya Samsonov has been the best netminder of the Capitals-Panthers series, so far. How does that stack up against all of the other postseason netminders? The chart below plots the save percentage and goals differential for each of the postseason goaltenders. [Click to enlarge]
Samsonov sits comfortably in the upper right quadrant of the graph (performing better than average for save percentage and expected goals differential. In fact, he is among the top 5 currently playing in the postseason.
Could the Capitals goaltending concerns have quietly taken care of itself in the first four games of the series? One could argue that stance. However, one could also argue that Samsonov might be one game away from watching Vitek Vanecek take over. We’ve only seen that about 50 times, and vice versa.
Samsonov will get the starts until he has proven he can no longer handle it, and that’s about all we can ask for at this point. If he continues his top level play the Capitals may have also avoided a goaltender hunt this offeseason. That remains to be seen.
By Jon Sorensen