Charles (Second) In Charge: Goals Differential For Charlie Lindgren

Photo: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in more than two seasons, there will be no debate. The Washington Capitals will have Darcy Kuemper as their starting goaltender and Charlie Lindgren will be the backup to start the 2022-23 season. Yesterday we began our deep dive on Darcy. Today we begin to take a closer look at Charlie.

The Capitals announced on the first day of 2022 free agency that they had signed unrestricted free agent goaltender Charlie Lindgren to a three-year contract that carries a $1.1 million annual cap hit. For comparison, Vitek Vanecek made $716,667 last season and Ilya Samsonov made $2,000,000 last season.

Lindgren, 28, went 5-0-0 with a .958 save percentage and 1.22 goals-against average in five NHL games with the St. Louis Blues last season. He also posted a .925 save percentage and a 2.21 goals-against average in 34 games with the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds.

Games Played And Goals Differential

As we begin to dig deeper on Capitals goaltenders, (or any goalie for that matter) one of the first advanced stats we typically look at is the Goals Saved Above Expected, or Goals Differential. It’s simply the difference between expected goals and actual goals. (xGA – GA).

For those not familiar with the term “expected goals”, or didn’t get a chance to read our post on Darcy Kuemper, a brief primer. The value is based on an advanced statistical model that utilizes historical shot data (shot type, location, result, etc.) to generate an “expected goals” percentage for each and every shot in a game.

A simplified example. If a slap shot from the right faceoff dot (or any exact location) historically scores 5% of the time, then any shot in a game of that type from that location is assigned a value of .05. These values are summed for every shot in a game to determine the total “expected goals” for a team in a game.

If the total of expected goals is 2.75 for a game, but the goaltender yields just two goals in the game, the netminder earned a +.75 goals differential for the game. He gave up less than “expected”, or less than historically scored in the past.

The following graph plots the cumulative goals differential for each season in Lindgren’s career. It also includes the teams he played for and the number of games he played in each season. [Click to enlarge].

The NHL sample size for Lindgren is minuscule, but a good starting place for our extended detailed breakdown over the next few posts. As for the 29 starts he has made in the NHL, Lindgren has done relatively well with regards to goals differential.

In 29 career NHL games with the Blues and Montreal Canadiens, Lindgren has gone 15-12-2 with a .913 save percentage, 2.74 goals-against average, and two shutouts.

At five-on-five, Lindgren posted a .950 save percentage (including .913 at high-danger), 1.45 goals-against average, and a 3.42 goals-saved above average at the NHL-level. He also tallied a 1.000 penalty-killing save percentage.

AHL

In 34 games played for the Thunderbirds last season, Lindgren was an impressive 24-7-1-3 with a 2.21 goals against average and a .925 save percentage. For his AHL career, he’s 76-65-24-11 with a 2.75 goals against average and a .903 save percentage, although most of his poor numbers occurred in the first three years of his career.

From AHL

Our analysis and assessment is just getting started, as we will next take a look at a few of the other career trends for Kuemper and Lindgren in the coming days. We will also begin to project differences between last years goaltenders, Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov, and the newly acquired Kuemper and Lindgren.

[As always, we want to thank all the fine folks at Natural Stat TrickEvolving Hockey, HockeyViz, The American Hockey League and Hockey Reference for the data utilized in our analysis. To learn more about the statistical terms used in this post, please check out our NHL Analytics Glossary.]

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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3 Responses to Charles (Second) In Charge: Goals Differential For Charlie Lindgren

  1. Anonymous says:

    I know it’s easy to get overexcited about new players, but I have a good feeling about Lindgren. Surprised the Blues didn’t tie him down.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Excited to see Charlie get a real shot.

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