Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Western Conference Finals Preview: Goaltending

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Quick is the best goaltender in this series.
The Western Conference will feature the two hottest goaltenders in the playoffs: Jonathan Quick for Los Angeles and Mike Smith for Phoenix. Quick’s postseason #’s: 8-1, 1.55 GAA, .949 SV%. Smith’s #’s: 8-3, 1.77 GAA, .948 SV%. Their nearly identical SV%’s are the highest of any goaltenders still in the postseason.

Their head-to-head numbers during the regular season are nearly identical as well. Quick was 3-1-2 with a 1.79 GAA and .932 SV% with two shutouts in six starts. In five starts, Smith was 3-1-1 with a 1.76 GAA and .938 SV% with one shutout.

Quick is a first-time Vezina Trophy nominee coming off his third 35+ win season. To contrast, Mike Smith was on waivers last season and went unclaimed. Credit his reclamation to reuniting with Dave Tippett, his former head coach in Dallas, and his system? Credit to working with Los Angeles Kings Legend/Coyotes Goalie Coach Sean Burke?

Mike Smith has been great this season just not "Jonathan Quick great."
It’s no secret that Phoenix gives up a lot of shots. They’re giving up 36.4 shots per game to their opponents in the playoffs, dead last. They gave up 31.6 (28th) in the regular season. But to get a real understanding of just how much of an impact Smith and Quick are having on their teams; we have to look at the number of scoring chances each team is giving up and how frequently both goaltenders are saving those chances.

Both goalies are on top of their games but Quick gets the slight edge. The proof is in their SV% on scoring chances. Scoring chances are loosely defined as shots coming from the area from the top of the faceoff circles inside the faceoff dots to the goal line.

Jonathan Quick stopped 53 of 57 scoring chances for a .930 SV% against Vancouver. Mike Smith stopped 92 of 100 chances (.920 SV%) against Chicago. In Round Two, Quick stopped 53 of 58 chances for a .914 SV% against St. Louis. Mike Smith stopped 53 of 60 chances (.883 SV%) against Nashville.
Mike Smith absolutely stole Round One against Chicago. Only Ottawa gave up more quality scoring chances (103). His .883 SV% against Nashville is still well above-average but not nearly as impressive as his first round performance.

Thru the first two-rounds: Quick has stopped 106 of 115 scoring chances (.922 SV%). Smith has stopped 145 of 165 chances (.906 SV%). Mike Smith has had to make 379 saves thru 11 games. Quick has made 260 saves thru 9 games. All those saves are adding up quickly for Smith and should start to take their toll vs. Los Angeles.

The Coyotes are allowing 36.4 shots per game while registering only 26.8 shots on net for a difference of -9.6 shots in the playoffs (vs. Chicago: -13.7; vs. Nashville: -4.6). Recent history suggests the Coyotes can’t keep playing this way and expect to advance onto the Stanley Cup Finals. Looking at every Finals matchup since the lockout, only the 2006 Edmonton Oilers gave up at least two more shots than they took (-4.4). So while there’s no denying that Mike Smith is the Coyotes’ MVP, Phoenix will need to become more aggressive on offense and tighten up defensively if they expect to make it past Los Angeles in the Conference Finals.

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