Tomas Vokoun and Soft Goals

Earlier this summer I took a look at how the Caps goalies performed last season, but rather than looking at traditional metrics I attempted to evaluate the goalies by how many "soft goals" they allowed. A binary rating system proved to be too inexact, as well as more difficult, so, based on discussions with other Japers' Rink readers and contributors, I settled on a three-tiered system, coding all Caps goals against as soft, not-soft or questionable, using a fault-based standard:

  • Soft goals are goals that the goalie has to make the save, goals where the defense (which includes both defensemen and forwards) did its job and gave up a shot that fans and coaches would be comfortable giving up on a routine basis.
  • Not soft goals are goals where the defense has a considerable breakdown and puts the goalie in a position where he'd have to bail out the D to keep the puck out of the net. Bail-out saves are great, but they aren't fair to expect from a goalie, so any clear scoring chance in the slot area, through a screen, or following a close deflection would not be coded as soft.
  • There's no precise way to define the questionable (or asterisked) goals, but the guiding principle was that a goal that had both a defensive breakdown and a poor play by the goalie would be questionable; both the defense and goalie are at fault.  

Since that original FanPost on soft goals there has been a considerable shake up in the Caps goaltending ranks - Semyon Varlamov is out, Tomas Vokoun is in. Therefore, to give Caps fans an understanding of how Vokoun stacks up to the Caps goaltending from last season, I've gone through the Florida Panthers goals against last season and coded all their goals as soft, questionable, or not soft, and I included the goals scored against Scott Clemmensen and Jacob Markstrom so that there would be some comparison within the team. The results from the analysis are after the jump.


The full spreadsheet can be found by clicking here, and here's a summary of the data, with the Caps trio of Michal Neuvirth, Semyon Varlamov, and Braden Holtby included:

Goalie Total Goals Soft Goals * Goals Shots Minutes SG/TG S/SG M/SG (SG+*)/TG S/(SG+*) M/(SG+*)
Vokoun 137 18 17 1753 3224 13.1% 97.4 179.1 25.5% 50.1 92.1
Clemmensen 74 10 14 833 1696 13.5% 83.3 169.6 32.4% 34.7 70.7
Markstrom 2 0 2 14 40 0% N/A N/A 100% 7.0 20.0
Neuvirth 110 17 18 1283 2689 15.5% 75.5 158.2 31.8% 36.7 76.8
Varlamov 58 10 10 759 1560 17.2% 75.9 156.0 34.5% 38.0 78.0
Holtby 22 9 2 332 736 40.9% 36.9 81.8 50.0% 30.1 66.9

SG/TG is soft goals as a percentage of total goals allowed; S/SG is shots against per soft goal; M/SG is minutes played per soft goal; SG+* is soft goals plus questionable goals

As you can see, last season Vokoun gave up one soft goal about every three games.  He gave up questionable goals at the same rate, about every game and a half you'd expect to see a soft or questionable goal against Vokoun. We don't know how close this is to his historical rate, so we need to be cautious in drawing conclusions and expectations based on these numbers, but these numbers do seem to corroborate the belief that Vokoun is a cut above the rest of the goalies on this list - for each soft goal Vokoun allowed, he played about a full period more than any of the Caps goalies last year. He played slightly less than a full period more than the Caps goalies when you consider questionable goals, but he still  played quite a bit more than anyone in the Caps trio did.

We also see that Vokoun faced roughly 97 shots for each softy he allowed, and around 50 shots for each goal that was even questionable. This may be an even more impressive difference, as it seems to eliminate the differences between the two teams in the number of shots allowed per game. Vokoun faced over 20 more shots per soft goal than any Caps goalie, and over 12 more shots per soft/questionable goal. If the Caps can continue their strong team defense, we may see the minutes per soft/questionable goal increase for Vokoun (none of the Caps goalies or Clemmensen faced over half a shot per minute, but Vokoun did); if the Caps can keep the shots-per-minute down to the rates that Varlamov and Neuvirth saw, the benefits the team reaps from Vokoun's presence may be even greater than these raw numbers indicate.

But what types of soft and questionable goals beat these goalies in 2010-11? Are there any specific areas of vulnerability we should keep an eye out for? To answer those questions, let's take a look at the goals themselves and break them out into the following categories:

  • Angle: A shot that beats the goalie from an angle from which goals simply shouldn't be scored;
  • Distance: A shot that beats the goalie from further out than you'd expect an NHL goalie to get beaten, and without a screen (distance is a bit of a sliding scale, depending on how hard the shot was - some distance shots were floaters from the high slot, others were point shots that went in cleanly.); 
  • Leaky: A shot where the goalie was in position and the puck hit him but squeaked through when it should have been controlled;
  • Positional: A shot that catches the goalie cheating, scrambling, or generally being out of position (there is some overlap with "Angle" in this category, but the difference between the two is whether the goalie was in position to make the save and failed to execute ("Angle") or whether the goalie was out of position ("Position")); 
  • Puck Handling: A shot where the goalie tried to play the puck and turned it over or muffed a cover-up in the crease; and
  • Rebound: Where the goalie kicked a rebound out to the slot or some other dangerous area.

Without further ado...

Goalie Angle Distance Leaky Positional Puck Handling Rebound
Vokoun 8 8 5 2 2 10
Clemmensen 7 6 1 4 2 5
Markstrom 1 1 0 0 0 0
Neuvirth 5 8 2 6 1 13
Varlamov 2 7 2 3 0 6
Holtby 2 2 1 3 1 2

Note to Caps defenders: get better at tying up sticks - it's a skill you might need.

Moving along, to get a vague sense of how allowing soft and questionable goals impacts the team's ability to win, here's another set of charts.  The first chart is the baseline win and loss percentages for FLA and WAS.  The second chart is the percentage of soft and questionable goals that came in wins and losses for each goalie.

Team Win% Lose%
WAS 59% 41%
FLA 37% 63%

Goalie Soft% W Soft% L Soft/Q% W Soft/Q% L
Vokoun 33% 67% 26% 74%
Clemmensen 20% 80% 25% 75%
Neuvirth 47.1% 52.9% 54.3% 45.7%
Varlamov 30% 70% 15% 85%
Holtby 44.4% 55.6% 45.5% 54.5%

If soft or questionable goals had no more impact than a non-soft goal then you'd expect to see the percentages of soft and questionable goals to more or less mirror the win and loss percentages of the teams. But soft and questionable goals are more likely to come in a loss than they are in a win across the board. It may seem intuitive or obvious, but this seems to indicate that allowing a soft or questionable goal increases a team's chance of losing more than simply allowing a goal against would.

Finally, here are some Vokoun-specific observations about soft and questionable goals.  

Starts 0 Soft 1 Soft Multiple Soft 0 Soft/Q 1 Soft/Q Multiple Soft/Q
Vokoun 57 42 12 3 30 19 8

The dates in which Vokoun let in multiple soft goals were: 12/15, 12/23, and 1/5.  The dates in which he let in multiple soft or questionable goals were: 10/11, 10/21, 11/3, 12/15, 12/22, 12/23, 1/5, and 3/5.  

Eyeballing the numbers, it appears as though Vokoun's soft and questionable goals mostly came earlier in the season. Vokoun let in 13 of his 18 soft goals before January 6, and only five soft goals after January 6. He let in 21 soft or questionable goals before January 6, and only 14 after. There also seems to be a degree of clumping among his soft and questionable goals, but this may just be random. If the clumping is not random, it could indicate periods of being overworked (specifically a stretch between 12/15 and 1/5 when he let in seven soft goals and two more questionable goals while starting eight of the Panthers' ten games) - all the more reason to give Neuvirth a steady dose of starts during the regular season, especially early on.

Lastly, one final note about coding soft goals. The process is a subjective one, and there will be a significant degree of disagreement over particular goals. That's just natural, but it shouldn't undermine the entire value of the exercise. It's similar to the process of charting scoring chances (and, in some ways, related) - some people will disagree, and even within scoring chances and soft goals there is a sliding scale that can't fully be captured; not all scoring chances or soft goals are created equal. But as we can develop the pool of data in these areas, the analyses they yield will become more robust, and the entire community should benefit.  With that in mind, please check out Red Line Station's thorough analysis of Vokoun's 2010-11 season as well as Corey's Corner's articles on Neuvirth's season and Varlamov's season.  There's bound to be some disagreement over particular goals (though I haven't gone through the posts to do any detailed comparison of each goal against), so looking at these pieces in conjunction can only add to the breadth of the analysis.

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