First I want to touch on why goalie wins don't tell you much of the story, if anything.
Goalies are only as good as their team, in the vast majority of circumstances. We can get a sense of the role a team plays in a goalie's W% just by the amount of goal support he receives and the goals allowed by the netminder, also known as the Pythagorean expectation. If we know goals-for and goals-against we can estimate W% by GF^2/(GF^2+GA^2). Try it with a few teams and you will see it is pretty accurate, enough for a good barometer.
Michal Neuvirth has a GAA of 2.49 and was given goal support of about 3.2 per game, for a win expectation of .615. If you play 47 times and win 61.5% of your games played we would expect you to end up with 29 wins. Neuvy has 27. Almost exactly what we would expect.
Semyon Varlamov has a GAA of 2.23 but only gets 2.1 goals of support per game, making his win expectation .472. Based on his 27 games we would expect him to win 12-13 games. He won 11, so again, what we would expect.
If Varlamov had the same goal support as Neuvy he would have won ~65% of his games, or ~17 wins for the season. So you see: goalie wins are mostly driven at the team level. Why does the team support Neuvy with 1+ more goals? Who knows, but Varlamov did a better job at keeping goals out of the net despite not getting the benefit of better goal support.
On to the head to head data.
All data is during even strength, except for the PK stats. When I say save percentage (Sv%) what I really mean is scoring chance save percentage. This helps keep the playing field level since the shots are of the same quality. The GF/GA column shows the ratio of goals scored to goals against. Since I don't (yet) have TOI data for these situations I thought it would be helpful to see just how much more support Neuvy gets.
|Goalie & Situation (all during 5v5 except for PK data)|
|First 2 periods||GF/GA||Sv%|
|3rd and OT||GF/GA||Sv%|
|Tied after 2||GF/GA||Sv%|
|Close/Late (within 1 thru 2 or tied in 3rd)||GF/GA||Sv%|
I think the numbers speak for themselves. With the exception of OT (where Neuvy clearly comes out on top) Varlamov has performed better in almost every other situation. I know Neuvy has never lost in the playoffs and that means something, just not enough in my opinion to give the Caps the best chance at winning over Varly.
How about you? Knowing what you know now, would you still vote for Neuvirth?