The goalie experiment (and Men of the Month)

Well, I gave it a try.

Sunday afternoon, with my beloved New York Jets having already conducted their business for the week, I sat down on the couch with a clipboard and three pens to watch ESPNU’s broadcast of New Hampshire and Vermont from Gutterson Field House.

After my blog post last week about how we look at goalies’ stats, I decided to use the game to test out a system of breaking down the numbers. For each goaltender who played in the game, I recorded their saves and goals allowed based on the score of the game at the time.

Now, I didn’t do a perfect job on this. I noticed at the first intermission that my shot totals didn’t match ESPNU’s, probably because I thought one or two more shots were broken up in front. That said, this is just an experiement, and I’ll ask that you bear with me.

By my count, UNH goaltender Brian Foster saved four of five shots he faced with the score tied (including two of three power-play shots), all five shots he faced when the Wildcats were down one goal (including two shorthanded shots), all five shots he faced when the Wildcats led by one, and 11 of 12 shots he faced when the Wildcats led by two or more goals (including two of three power-play shots).

UVM’s Mike Spillane, meanwhile, saved three of four shots he faced with a tie score, three of four while the Catamounts trailed by one, three of four while the Catamounts led by one (including two power-play saves), and allowed a goal on the only shot he faced when the Catamounts trailed by two goals. He was replaced by Rob Madore, who stopped 11 of the 12 shots he faced (including six power-play saves), all of which came with Vermont down by two or more goals.

What can you take from that?

Well, over one game, you can’t really take too much from the numbers, but if I were to zero in on anything, I would take the fact that Foster stopped 14 of the 15 shots he faced while the teams were within one goal of one another, while Spillane stopped nine of 12. That’s a pretty big difference (and I think I may have shorted Foster a couple of saves). Actually, if I were going to create a “designer stat” (think OPS in baseball), I’d look at save percentage when the goal differential when the teams are within a goal of one another.

I don’t think I’d need the next goaltender to win the Hobey to match Ryan Miller’s .950 save percentage, but I think I’d want to see a .950 save percentage with a goal differential of 1 or 0. Just something to think about going forward.

Next, November is in the books, which means we have a new crop of Player of the Month winners to look at.

In Hockey East, it’s Bobby Butler of New Hampshire, who averaged 1.86 points per game as the Wildcats went 3-2-2. Butler really didn’t jump out at me when I watched him on Sunday, but the numbers don’t lie. As a goal-scorer and a senior, he certainly has the right profile. It’s just a question of how his pace keeps up as the season goes along.

In the CCHA, it’s Blair Riley of Ferris State who had 10 points (8g, 2a) while the Bulldogs went 4-0-2. I like Riley as a darkhorse for a finalist spot, especially if FSU can make a run in the CCHA and grab an NCAA tournament berth. I don’t think he’s a likely candidate to win the award, but again, he’s a goal-scorer (13g in 16 games), he’s a senior, and he’s helping the Bulldogs battle with the big boys of the CCHA (note those two goals he had against Miami). Again, if he and the Bulldogs hang around, keep an eye on Riley.

Atlantic Hockey’s Player of the Month is Canisius’ Cory Conacher, who had 13 points in 9 games as the Golden Griffins went 5-3-1. Conacher may be the most interesting player here, since he now has the No. 3 scoring average in the nation, and more goals than either of the players ahead of him (UMass’ James Marcou and Wisconsin’s Brendan Smith…more on him in a second). He’s coming off of a 35-point season, but his 12 goals tie his career high. The thing that could make it tough for Conacher is team success. Right now, the Griffs are fourth in Atlantic Hockey, and well behind RIT and Air Force. I think the conference semifinals might be a must for the Griffins if Conacher is to get noticed, especially with other potential Hobey finalists out there like Bemidji State’s Matt Read in the CHA and Air Force’s Jacques Lamoureux competing against Conacher in Atlantic Hockey.  Could there be more than one finalist out of the smaller conferences? Maybe.

Now, last I checked, ECAC Hockey, the WCHA and the CHA don’t name players of the month, but I think it’s pretty obvious in the case of ECAC Hockey (Blake Gallagher or Colin Greening, take your pick). In the WCHA, I think Brendan Smith of Wisconsin has thrown himself into the Hobey conversation with authority. Anytime a defenseman is No. 2 in the country is scoring, you have to pay attention, and that is the case with Mr, Smith. His point-per-game average in November has put him in position, and he followed that up with a huge seven-point series against Michigan Tech last weekend. Overall, Smith has 15 points in his last seven games, which means I will have my eye on him this weekend when the Badgers take on North Dakota (thank you, NHL Network).

In the CHA, Matt Read continues to make it clear he’s in a class by himself. Not to say there aren’t other great players in the conference, but Read is the leading reason the Beavers are No. 4 in the country.

As we get deeper into the season, the Hobey picture is starting to take shape, and with guys like Smith, Gallgher, Greening, and Read in the mix – to say nothing of James Marcou, Brandon Wong, Eric Lampe, Jack Connolly, Marc Cheverie and we could go on and one – that shape is definitely an interesting one. Stay tuned.