Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Dan Ellis: Another Surprising Goalie

It is very common for players to have hot and cold streaks in the NHL. When a player gets hot, even a mid-range player can look like an all star. Nowhere is this more obvious than in goal, because of the importance of goaltending to a team. This season we have had a few surprising goalies play very well including Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins and Ty Conklin of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The most recent unheralded goalie to have a very hot streak is Dan Ellis of the Nashville Predators. Ellis leads the league with his .926 saves percentage. He has a 2.28 goals against average and a 22-13 record (with three losses counted as regulation ties).

Nobody expected Ellis to play a major role in the NHL this season. He had been drafted by the Dallas Stars in 2000 and after finishing a college career at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, settled into a role in the AHL. He has only played one NHL game before this season. Last summer, Nashville signed him as a free agent. Though they had traded Tomas Vokoun (last season's starter) to the Florida Panthers, Ellis was not slated to play in the NHL. It was expected that Chris Mason would be the Nashville starter with Pekka Rinne backing him up. Ellis was there to create some competition in the goalie ranks and provide a solid third choice in event of injury. It turns out Ellis won the backup job and has outplayed Mason. Nashville is using Ellis as their number one goalie right now (though Mason has more games played this season).

Ellis will not play enough games this season to seriously play in the Vezina Trophy race (a race in which I support Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks), but if he were to play at this rate over the course of an entire season he could win a Vezina. Not bad for a player who has only one game of NHL experience before this season, but is too old to be classified a rookie.

1) You previously changed from Brodeur to Luongo largely due Roberto having a better save % than marty
2) Right now the diference is .920 to .919 in favor of Roberto. However Brodeur's GAA is much lower, 2.19, to Luongo's 2.33, and Marty has 41 wins to Roberto's 35.
3) It also seems the man overlooked is Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Hiw numbers are comparable, and even better in some ways to those 2, yet rarely is he included in the top 3 goalies. His save % is .923, GAA 2.10, and has 34 wins in only 57 games.
When we look at saves, its almost a dead heat between Luongo and Brodeur - and Luongo has a (slightly) better saves percentage. Giguere has faced a much smaller number of shots.
GAA is not a good way to compare goalies. Its like RBI in baseball. If you play on a team that puts tons of runners on base in front of you, you have far more RBI opportunities than players on teams with less prolific offenses. Likewise with GAA. If your team allows fewer scoring chances and shots than some other team your goalie will likley have a much lower GAA even if he is not as good. I don't think it should be used at all in these type of Vezina comparisons.
1) Statistically you are correct: JSG has faced an average of 24 shots/game. Marty 25, and Luongo 26.
2) Didn't say that JSG IS our Vezina favourite, but find it intersting that very few include him in their top 3 despite his excellant overall numbers.
That one extra goal allowed by Brodeur on six extra shots is enough to tip the balance of the Vezina to Luongo? It's a difference of .001...

The two are essentially dead even in saves and goals allowed. Statistically, there is no difference. As such, you have to move onto secondary factors in picking a better goalie, where six more wins by Brodeur plus a better GAA should put him over.

Of course, Luongo is a sexier pick because he hasn't won before and is widely acknowledged as the best goalie in the game not named Brodeur, but this season might not be the season where he usurps Brodeur.
1) Taylor: Agreed, GAA should NOT be the only measure of a goalies worth, but one of several factors:
GAA, save %, wins,etc. All taken together usually seperate the elite from the rest
The two are essentially dead even in saves and goals allowed. Statistically, there is no difference. As such, you have to move onto secondary factors in picking a better goalie

On this we agree. Where we disagree is that wins are useful as a "secondary factor". New Jersey is a better team than Vancouver. They win more. Brodeur and Luongo are not necessary in the argument. Luongo faces higher quality shots. Luongo's team is shorthanded more often. Those are some more meaningful secopndary factors.
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