Opportunities To Win

When a goaltender has a bad game, it almost always results in a loss. A lot of times, teams don’t need a miracle in net, just an opportunity to win. How have Devan Dubnyk and Nikolai Khabibulin performed when it comes to giving the Oilers a chance to win any given game?

I define an “opportunity to win” as a game where the goaltender keeps his save percentage above 0.900. That’s below league average, but it is good enough that just about any team can outscore their problems. As the charts below show, the Oilers have had a strong chance of winning any game in which their goaltender has managed that particular feat:

Nikolai Khabibulin/Devan Dubnyk Combined Record

Save Percentage (Dubnyk/Khabibulin) Decisions Record Points Percentage
0.900 or better 34 19-8-7 66.18%
Worse than 0.900 37 1-33-3 6.76%

In games where the goaltending was 0.900 or better, the Oilers went 19-8-7. In contrast, they’ve won one of 37 games where the goaltender failed to post an 0.900 SV%. What happens when we break that record down by individual goaltender?

Nikolai Khabibulin

Save Percentage Decisions Record Points Percentage
0.900 or better 17 10-5-2 64.71%
Worse than 0.900 25 0-24-1 2.00%

Devan Dubnyk

Save Percentage Decisions Record Points Percentage
0.900 or better 17 9-3-5 67.65%
Worse than 0.900 12 1-9-2 16.67%

Those are strikingly similar records in the given situations. Devan Dubnyk’s record is probably a hair better than his save percentage numbers relative to Khabibulin really deserves; he did win one sub-0.900 SV% game, and his 0.900 SV%+ numbers are a hair better, but overall things are pretty close. The Oilers don’t win when their goaltender fails to stop 90.0% of the shots he faces, and they’re generally quite good when he does.

The key difference is the odds of posting a +0.900 SV% game. In Dubnyk’s case, there’s a roughly 60/40 split – 60% of the time, he gives the team enough to win, and 40% of the time he doesn’t. Those numbers are reversed when Khabibulin finds himself in net – just 40% of his starts are quality, and the other 60% of the time he posts a save percentage less than 0.900. Put another way: the Oilers are 50% more likely to get a quality start from Devan Dubnyk than they are from Nikolai Khabibulin.

Now, obviously there are exceptions. If a goaltender faces a bunch of breakaways and odd-man rushes in a particular game, his numbers are going to be bad. I’m going to dive into shot quality a bit in the off-season, and show where Khabibulin and Dubnyk are facing shots from, but so far there’s little reason to believe that there’s much difference between the two. Dubnyk’s simply given his team a chance to win with far greater frequency than Khabibulin.

  • @ Quicksilver:

    Given that there was no mention of Khabibulin’s poor health when the Oilers signed him in any Edmonton paper, I don’t think you can point to the other media not talking about him as a sign of, well, anything.

    Both papers and most of the rest of the mainstream media neglected to pass along any of the very real problems with Khabibulin – health, post-lcokout performance – when he signed here. I can’t think of a good reason for that. Can you?

    Leaving aside that particular charge, I don’t have to argue for or against Khabibulin now. It’s over. The Oilers have got 61 lousy games out of an aging, injury-prone goaltender in the first two years of a grotesquely generous four year contract. Injuries in the first year and ineffective play in the second have been primary factors in making the Oilers the worst team in the league. He was already a collosal error on Steve Tambellini’s part, and I think 90% of people realize it. Thus, this article wasn’t about running him down.

    What this article was about was comparing consistent play between the two goaltenders and pointing to (what I felt was) an interesting fact about the Oilers – their performance with and without decent goaltending this season.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      I owe you an appology Jonathan. After reading this article i was darn sure it was one of 4 or 5 articles you had written this season painting Khabibulin into a corner. After going through past articles, i see this wasn’t the case. Appologies for speaking first and checking for possible prejudice after the fact.

      We seem anxious to cut Devan some slack here, can’t see why we’re so quick to hold Khabibulins feet to the flames, both are playing behind the same hockey club.

      • Vaclav

        That both Dubnyk and Khabibulin are playing behind the same hockey club is exactly why one is able to accurately compare the two. One is treading water and the other has drowned.

      • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

        “We seem anxious to cut Devan some slack here, can’t see why we’re so quick to hold Khabibulins feet to the flames, both are playing behind the same hockey club.”

        Lets put it in terms you are more likely to understand. It’s like giving Gagner a 3.75 contract to be the #1C, only to have him play like Fraser this past year. Meanwhile Cogliano (DD) puts up a nice 35 points and rounds out his PK game.

        • Quicksilver ballet

          What are your thoughts if Khabibulin played on a competitive team, say the Flyers, or another competitive team, i don’t think they have any less success than what they are currently having. There’s nothing rational or normal about the Oilers NHL/AHL roster, to lay this resemblance of a season at the feet of 35 is laughable as far as i’m concerned. You have a right to your opinion Obbie, sorry, i don’t agree.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            Quicksilver:

            There is lots of blame to go around for “this resemblance of a season”. I think the point of the article is to say that if the Oilers had gotten even average goaltending from Khabibulin this year there would have been a few more wins in the bank. Would they be in a playoff race? Of course not, but it may have given the fans a little more hope for next year.

            By the same token, if Khabi was playing for the Flyers, they’d still be a playoff team, just not the #1 seed in the east. Unless of course he was relegated to opening and closing the gate at the bench, which perhaps he should have been doing more of here.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            It’s the fact that you can’t distinguish between the season Bulin had vs the season DD had that’s so troubling.

            I’m not “blaming the season on him” Tim Thomas likely couldn’t have gotten this team into the playoffs. However it is clear as day that DD has been miles better then Bulin, and the numbers are there to prove it.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Please don’t be troubled Obbie, i am able to see the difference in the numbers you speak of, i just don’t give a damn about them. You may not agree with me but noisy statistics and numbers like these are overated.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            Clearly you don’t, because if you did you wouldn’t try to blame the poor play of one on the team in front of him, yet you ignore the fact that the other plays behind the exact same team.

            Who cares about noisy stats like how many goals a goalie gives up.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    While we’re comparing Oiler goalies, how about this one…

    JDD Edm GP 58 20-31-4 GAA 3.27 SP .901
    NK Edm GP 61 17-38-5 GAA 3.25 SP .897

    Similar stats, but one will never play for the Oilers again and the other is locked up for 2 more years @ $3.75M. I shouldn’t sound off too much since I actually cheered July 1, 2009 when I heard Khabi had been signed. I guess I’ll never get that NHL GM job I was hoping for.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    JW-
    As always, enjoyable.
    I’m looking forward to what you come up with when you dig further. I like the idea of accounting for where the shots come from. However, do you see any feasibility in tracking the type of shot as well (ie:initial shot vs 2nd or 3rd rebound).
    I was talking with a friend who coaches junior and in a conversation about Osgood, he said that he had one of the best initial shot save %. So, while his numbers might blow when things get scrambly, on a team like Detroit, he’s the perfect fit as far as cost vs. effectiveness within their system that limits second and third oppportunities.
    Not even sure if it’s doable, but what are your thoughts on this maybe giving a clearer glimpse into the future of our goaltending situation once our defence starts to sort itself out?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Interesting article. However, the article assumes an equal chance of starting each goaltender for every game. We know from Renney quotes that DD is being chosen to play against lesser competition. Your article linked in a reply to Lemonhead does not address this satisfactorily.

    That said, we don’t need statistical analysis to see with our own eyes that NK has had a bad year, and DD at least average. Maybe NK will rebound, maybe he’s done. Nonetheless, if we’re going to do statistical comparisons, we need to start by comparing apples to apples.

  • @ Ashley:

    Three things:

    First, I’d like to see a link to Renney’s comments.

    Second, I’d like to know what more you’d like to see from the article I linked.

    Third, I want to say that I think it’s clear that given the choice between facts/what the coach says, facts always win the day.

  • @ Crash, Agreed, of areas of need, I think goaltending is towards the bottom of our list. Veteran defensemen? Huge need. Veteran third/fourth liners? Huge need.
    Goaltending? Small need.
    This is an example of what happens when you chase the big name free agent. He’s great for the early parts of the contract, totally drops off later, but the huge cap hit is still there. Let this be a warning to future Oilers management.
    Remember Campbell, Kovalchuk, Khabby. Everybody wanted them at the time, soon they will look like huge wastes.