A month ago, Sutter said of Quick: "We need him to play a hell of a lot better than he has. Our goals against, our save percentage, when you do all that stuff, it’s not where it has to be."
Now that we've passed the halfway mark of the season, let's take another look at Quick and Bernier's numbers.
The stat that doesn't lie
We will focus on the stat that is the best indicator of a goalie's performance: save percentage. Wins and GAA always factor into Vezina voting, but the team in front of the goalie has more influence on these numbers. As we all saw last year with Quick, the number of wins a goalie earns depends a lot on how many goals his team can score. No matter how good he is, a netminder can't make up for an inept offense (think of how many times the Kings lost 1-0!). Goals against average, on the other hand, is impacted by the number of shots a team allows against. Again, that's nothing the goalie has much control over.
So we look at what percentage of shots a goalie saves.
Last Sutter: "It’s a statthat tells the truth, if there’s one stat that doesn’t lie, right? Lehtonen tonight was at about .940 or so..."— lisa dillman (@reallisa) March 8, 2013
Save percentage can also be broken down by situation. Even strength save percentage (ESSV%) bounces around less than SV% on the penalty kill, and is considered a better indicator of a goalie's talent over a large sample.
Though of course we are dealing with very small sample this season, Quick is still well below what we'd expect from his career average (.923 ES SV%, .916 overall):
|Games||Starts||ES SV%||PK SV%||Total SV%|
Bernier, on the other hand, is posting a good ES SV% and has a total save percentage in line with regular NHL starters, though only over 9 games. We do not have a large enough sample to draw conclusions about his future career, but in the short term, he's performed better.
What should we expect in the second half?
Clearly, Quick's recovery from offseason back surgery has not gone as smoothly as we'd hoped. Though his body is fully healed, he's showing the effects of not playing for half a year. He seems less controlled at times; good games alternate with bad ones. And in this shortened season, with a packed schedule, Quick has less time with the goalie coaches to work through it.
But we know that Quick is not a sub-.900 goaltender, so we don't expect this to last. He should get back to his usual self in time. The question is, when?
Unfortunately, we don't know. And this could be the biggest question the Kings face as they try to advance in the playoffs.
A starter with a .891 SV% is often enough to sink a team's playoff hopes. But since the Kings are a dominant puck possession team--the best in the NHL, in fact--this problem has been somewhat masked. It's also helped that their top scorers have been running supernova-hot lately. (Carter, in particular, is scoring at double his average rate--it's fun to be lucky and good.) So while the team should remain strong in possession, they can't count on that kind of shooting forever.
The Kings are still doing a good job of keeping shots and scoring chances against low. But what I wrote a month ago still applies today: until Quick gets back to normal, it makes sense to give Bernier more starts. We don't know if he will continue to perform at this level, but he's at least earned a chance.
Sutter likes load his #1 goalie with work -- this week, he didn't even split the back-to-back games. Quick wound up playing three times in four days, and was pulled in San Jose.
Going forward, we hope Sutter keeps an open mind and evaluates both goalies on a game-by-game basis. Quick's job is secure. But since the Kings have a quality backup on hand, they can give him more time if he needs it.