Ilya Bryzgalov started for the Oilers last night in Nashville and the Oilers won 3-0. Ilya Bryzgalov is starting again tonight for the Oilers. Eric Tulsky provided some pretty convincing evidence last year that starting goalies in back to back games is insane. Eric looked at instances of teams playing a goalie in back to back games and found that, from 2011-13, goalies who were playing in the second half of a B2B who had played in the previous game posted a .901 save percentage while those who hadn’t play in the previous game posted a .912 save percentage.
I went and took a quick look at this year’s data and the same trend is evident. Goalies playing the second half of a B2B who were rested the night before have a .922 save percentage so far this year; those who didn’t play the previous night have a save percentage of .916.
It sure seems like it’s a no brainer to start both of your goalies in back to back games. A six to ten point difference in save percentage is actually a pretty large thing, particularly when you take into account that teams playing back to back games are more likely to be fatigued and give up more shots. Imagine a team that takes and allows 28 shots per game. Imagine further that this team scores on 8.5% of its shots and allows goals on 8.5% of its shots, a .915 save percentage. They score 2.38 goals per game and allow 2.38 goals per game. This is a pretty average team that I’m describing, one that will put up 92 points or so.
If you change things so that this team has a .905 save percentage – basically apply a second half of a B2B penalty – the team will go from allowing 2.38 goals per game to allowing 2.66 goals per game. They go from being an even goal difference team to one that goes about -23 over the course of 82 games. That will turn a 92 point team into an 84 point team or so. It’s a mammoth change.
Teams play so few B2B games that botching this decision may not show up in the course of a year. That’s not really an excuse though. Part of coaching is taking the players that you’ve been dealt and trying to maximize every little edge that you can find. The Oilers have a perfectly cromulent second goalie in Devan Dubnyk and he’s played well lately. Playing Bryzgalov against Columbus might not cost the Oilers but, unless Dubnyk has an undisclosed injury of some sort, Dallas Eakins is hitting on 18 here.Email Tyler Dellow at email@example.com