Monday, December 17, 2012

Hot goalies? 12/17

In the middle his post-practice remarks this morning, Adirondack Phantoms coach Terry Murray mentioned an interesting statistic that I hadn't noticed, but felt compelled to share with you.

The Phantoms have lost 15 games this year. In those losses, the opposing goaltender has been the No. 1 star seven times. I'm no mathematician, but that seems like an absurdly high number of times.

It also begs an important question, which Murray went on to ask in the same breath.

"Now is that bad shooting or is that great goaltending? You can look at it a lot of different ways," Murray said. "But that's a fact -- he has been named the star of the game in an incredible number."

Let's take a look at the "bad shooting" theory first. Here are a list of the American Hockey League teams, sorted by shooting percentage. You're going to have to scroll a while to get to the Phantoms.

Rank  Team        Goals/Shots  Shooting Percentage
1.    Springfield    87/753      11.55   percent
2.    Syracuse       95/829      11.459  percent
3.    Toronto        85/742      11.455  percent
4.    Oklahoma City  86/751      11.451  percent
5.    Hershey        73/657      11.11   percent
6.    Houston        82/752      10.90   percent
7.    Rochester      82/757      10.83   percent
8.    Grand Rapids   74/717      10.32   percent
9.    Connecticut    74/720      10.27   percent
10.   San Antonio    71/700      10.14   percent
11.   Lake Erie      82/818      10.02   percent
12.   Rockford       88/884       9.95   percent
13.   Charlotte      90/908       9.91   percent
14.   Binghamton     70/723       9.6818 percent
15.   Bridgeport     79/816       9.6813 percent
16.   Milwaukee      73/755       9.66   percent
17.   Portland       82/878       9.33   percent
18.   Abbotsford     66/714       9.24   percent
19.   Chicago        65/705       9.21   percent
20.   Worcester      72/791       9.10   percent
21.   Manchester     75/844       8.88   percent
T-22. WBS Penguins   69/778       8.86   percent
T-22. Norfolk        69/778       8.86   percent
24.   Peoria         63/726       8.67   percent
25.   Texas          62/764       8.11   percent
26.   Albany         55/697       7.89   percent
27.   St. John’s     66/841       7.84   percent
28.   Hamilton       55/725       7.58   percent
29.   Adirondack     61/806       7.56   percent
30.   Providence     61/843       7.23   percent
There aren't many teams in the AHL with more than 800 shots. Adirondack is one of them, yet ranks second-to-last in shooting percentage. On average, opposing goalies are stopping 92.44 percent of shots thrown their way. That number would put any one goalie sixth in the AHL in save percentage.

It's really tough to think so many goalies are playing that well against Adirondack on a routine basis.

But then look at the first-star performances the goaltenders have registered:

Oct. 14 -- Curtis McElhinney, at Springfield, 31-save shutout in 4-0 win.
Oct. 19 -- Eddie Pasquale, at St. John's, 31-save effort in 2-1 triumph.
Nov. 2 -- Dustin Tokarski, Syracuse, 23 saves as Crunch win 4-1.
Nov. 10 -- Jeff Frazee, at Albany, 22 saves as Devils squeak out 2-1 win.
Nov. 28 -- Eddie Pasquale, St. John's, 31 saves in a 3-2 IceCaps win.
Dec. 1 -- Keith Kinkaid, Albany, 44 saves to backstop Albany to 3-2 victory.
Dec. 14 -- Riku Helenius, Syracuse, 21-save shutout as Crunch win 3-0.

I saw five of those games -- the last five -- and I really think the goaltenders played pretty well in each of them. Kinkaid was unbelievable at the beginning of the month -- it touched off a personal hot streak for him -- and Helenius made some timely saves early in Friday night's game, to name two.

I think it's probably a little bit of a combination of bad shot selections and great goaltending. The bottom line is the Phantoms need to find a way to break through wall here and get some goals on the board. Murray has talked about trying to get higher-quality chances in better situations and areas.

"We have some players who have some pretty good numbers on their resume over the years," Murray said. "It's pretty surprising to me that I look at numbers and stats and I'm not seeing them right now. You look at your key guys, obviously, and they're out there in a lot of minutes -- playing all special teams situations -- even breaking it down further, a lot of those guys are getting the chances that you want to see them get. We're either unlucky or the opposing goaltender has been incredible."

Another statistic that's incredible in its own way -- the Phantoms are undefeated when holding a lead after one period of play. The bad news is that's only happened one time in 25 games. That's not a lot.

They've also only scored the first goal five times. When asked about it, Murray said "I don't think that's accurate. Is it that high?" He said that was "absolutely" a cause for concern, but he cares more about the lead after one period of play. Teams who lead after one period most often win the games.

"We haven't responded well enough," Murray said. "We're finding a way to not get it done. When I look at our games and break them down over those five games, we're getting the chances that we want -- the numbers. We're just not finding the scoring part of it. It's a concern."

Not surprisingly, the Phantoms are currently last in the AHL. Here's Jason Akeson on the situation.

“We’re going to come out here Wednesday and we’re going to show everyone what we’ve got,” he said. “I know everyone in there’s a little anxious and a little upset about the situation that we’re in right now. No one was really expecting us to be that low in the standings, but it is what it is. We’re going to have to step up our game and get on a little streak here.”

Personnel note: Gustafsson is day-to-day. "We'll see where he's at tomorrow for practice," Murray said. Marc-Andre Bourdon, who has been out for more than two weeks with an illness, also missed practice today. I asked Murray what the deal was there, as I always do, and this was his response: "Time to move on by all those guys. They're out of the line-up. We need to just focus on our team."

They're back on the ice tomorrow. Expect an update in the afternoon. In case you missed in on Twitter, Glens Falls native Shawn Weller has a broken finger, The Telegram reported, and did not accompany the IceCaps on the road trip. If you were hoping to see him, it seems you're out of luck.

Until next time,


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