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2016-17 in Review: Did Goaltending Cost the Kings a Playoff Spot?

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Taking a look at the five goalies who suited up for the Kings this season.

Can we ask for better goalie depth AND the good fortune not to use it all? Is that being too greedy?
USA Today

For the next month or two, we’ll be taking a look at the players who made the Los Angeles Kings’ 2016-17 season what it was: a crushing disappointment that got people fired an up-and-down journey which managed to be both unusual and familiar. Rather than the good-bad-future-grade format we’ve used in past seasons, we’ll ask a crucial question and answer it using it what we saw this year.

Up next are the performances of the five(!) goaltenders who played for the Kings during the 2016-17 season.

Did the play (or lack of play) from Jonathan Quick, Peter Budaj, Jack Campbell, Jeff Zatkoff, and Ben Bishop cost the Kings a playoff spot?

2016-17 in Review: “A Cavalcade of Goaltenders!”

Player GP GS Record SV% GAA 5v5 SV% SO
Player GP GS Record SV% GAA 5v5 SV% SO
Peter Budaj 53 51 27-20-3 0.917 2.12 0.926 7
Jonathan Quick 17 17 8-5-2 0.917 2.26 0.927 2
Jeff Zatkoff 13 8 2-7-2 0.879 2.94 0.876 0
Ben Bishop 7 6 2-3-2 0.900 2.49 0.911 0
Jack Campbell 1 0 0-0-0 1.000 0.00 1.000 0
(Stats courtesy of NHL.com and Corsica.hockey)

Jonathan Quick performed more or less as expected this season. His save percentage was .917, compared to his career .916 and the .918 he put up the prior two years. The bigger problem was how little Quick we saw. He suited up for a scant 17 games due to injury, split between the first period of the season and end of the year. Quick was even with Budaj in save percentage, but topped him slightly in 5v5 save percentage, generally the best indicator of a goalie’s true performance. Considering the league average 5v5 save percentage was .923 for 2016-17, Quick’s performance was solid. Where he was really missed is in how the team played in front of him. They just weren’t nearly as confident in Budaj/Zatkoff/Bishop/Campbell. Jonathan Quick’s play is NOT responsible for the Kings missing the playoffs, but his injury is partly responsible.

Peter Budaj was expected to carry the kind of load he did this season, just in Ontario for the AHL’s Reign. After Quick’s injury, Budaj was able to wrestle the starting job away from Jeff Zatkoff and started the bulk of the King’s season. He performed admirably. His stats for the year are very similar to Quick’s, and close to what Quick has historically put up. Budaj did tail off towards the end of the season, and the Kings clearly played more confidently in front of Quick, but Budaj couldn’t do anything about either of those. Peter Budaj is NOT responsible for the Kings missing the playoffs. In fact, they were only close because this AHL goalie played like a Stanley Cup winning starting goalie for most of the season.

Jack Campbell played 20 minutes of NHL hockey. He allowed zero goals. Jack Campbell is NOT responsible for the Kings missing the playoffs. In fact, he literally could not have done more than was asked of him.

Jeff Zatkoff started the 2016-17 season with the backup job firmly in hand. He finished it as the backup goalie, just in Ontario for the AHL’s Reign. So yeah, considering he was expected to play all the games this year that Quick sat, and Quick only played 17 games, this is bad. Very bad. Zatkoff only saw action in 13 games, but when you only win two of them, and give up a goal on about 13% of the shots you face no matter the game situation, you are a problem. Jeff Zatkoff is partly to blame for the Kings missing the playoffs. Why only partly? Well, what is the best we could have expected out of Zatkoff with Quick out? Probably about what Budaj gave the Kings anyway. So say Zatkoff plays at that level for his 13 games, or those games went to Budaj or Quick. At best that saves the Kings about 8 goals against, as Zatkoff stopped 196 of 223 shot, while a .917 save percentage is only 204 goals against. That is eight extra goals against, in only eight starts. While it gets them some more points, it wouldn’t have been enough to get the eight points they needed.

Ben Bishop should never have been a King. I hated the trade when it happened, and I hate it even more now that Bishop sucked in LA. It doesn’t even matter that he brought back a pick from Dallas. Fun Ben Bishop fact: during 4v4 and 3v3 play he gave up four goals on eight shots. Sometimes important times of the game are played that way. The only goalie who played for the Kings that was worse is Jeff Zatkoff. That isn’t saying much. Ben Bishop is partly responsible for the Kings missing the playoffs.

Add all that up and here is what we have: one part on Quick’s injury, one part on Jeff Zatkoff’s awful play, and one part on Ben Bishop’s awful play. I think you can construct an imaginary version of this Kings season with Quick playing 50+ games of similar quality, but they pick up another win or two out of better play from the skaters. They missed the playoffs by four wins, so this imaginary version is now two or three wins out. Swap the play of Zatkoff and Bishop for just league average play and you have three more wins. Fun fact: the final team to make the playoffs in the Western Conference was the Nashville Predators. But Kings fans don’t need to hear about the damage an eight seed can do. Sigh.

Stay tuned for our next 2016-17 in Review entry, on a couple of depth forwards fighting for a regular role.