Bern – Lugano: Goalie-Factor

Over the weekend I stumbled across something interesting from Blick in which they were outlining Bern’s advantages over Lugano. One thing that caught my eye was their mentioning of Stepanek’s consistency and Merzlikins‘ tendency to let in a softie from time to time:

Die Statistiken von Jakub Stepanek (nur 87,12 Prozent Abwehrquote im Halbfinal gegen Davos) mögen nicht so glitzern wie jene von Luganos Spektakel-Keeper Elvis Merzlikins (94,12% gegen Servette). Das liegt aber vor allem daran, dass die Berner (Davos schoss in 5 Spielen 132-mal aufs Tor) nicht annähernd so viele Schüsse aufs Tor zulassen wie Lugano (258 in 6 Partien, inklusive zahlreiche Weit-Weitschüsse von Servette). Berns 29-jähriger Tscheche im Tor ist viel weniger anfällig auf Flops als der 21-jährige Lette mit Schweizer Lizenz.

http://www.blick.ch/sport/eishockey/nla/kampf-um-den-meistertitel-diese-5-gruende-sprechen-fuer-bern-id4866978.html

To stick with the numbers from the semi-final for a second. We have SOG (1) and saves (2) on a per game basis in this graph:

stepanek_merzlikinsIn order to make a comparison possible, we have to bring everything to the same level, so we calculate all stats per 60 minutes played. This gives us the following stats:

Stepanek_merzlikins_semis

So, yeah, they are right that Stepanek faces way less work per 60 minutes played than Merzlikins. If we assume that Stepanek would have faced the same amount of work per 60 minutes played as Merzlikins did, we would get the following graph:

stepanek_merzlikins_per60We know that save percentage is a repeatable skill. Merzlikins posted a GAA of 2.42 and Stepanek one of 3.13 in the semis. The extrapolated stats for Stepanek would lead us to a GAA of 5.30 had he faced the same amount of work as Merzlikins. This means: If Bern were to allow the same amount of shots on goal as Lugano, they would be in hell. A difference of 2.88 goals per game is a whole lot of ground to make up. And if we assume that Stepanek is going to post league average numbers – which would be quiet kindly because he hasn’t even played league average – and has a save percentage of 0.906, Bern is still 1.45 goals behind. Had Stepanek played at least at a league average level in the semis (0.906 sv%, 132 SOG), Bern’s GAA would have been 2.28 – but the fact is: He hasn’t.

For those of you interested, here’s the entire table:

stepanek_merzlikins_table

To summarize: Saying that Stepanek’s save percentage is so bad because he faced less shots is wrong. Stepanek has given us enough data now to know that he is at most an average goaltender in the NLA and is protected by Bern’s system. Merzlikins is an above average goaltender and gives Lugano a chance to win every night. I’ll take Merzlikins‘ fumbles any day, if it means I’ll still get above average goaltending.