• A post that may be of interest to Mathieu Garon’s agent (and Canuck fans)

    by Tyler Dellow • July 12, 2008 • Uncategorized • 38 Comments

    I came across an interesting post that Dirk Hoag wrote last September. I’d quote a chunk of it but it seems to screw up the formatting of my site, so I’ll just mention his key point. There appears to be something of a platoon advantage in the shootout. Through two years, right handed shooting players were shooting 29.7% against left handed catching goalies and 36.4% against right handed catching goalies. Left handed shooting players were shooting 36.0% against left handed catching goalies and just 24.8% against right handed catching goalies.

    This strikes me as pretty interesting. It’s essentially a reverse platoon advantage from that which exists in baseball. Goalies who catch with their left hand do better against right handed shooters than left handed shooters and goalies who catch with their right hand do better against left handed shooters than right handed shooters. This makes intuitive sense, I think – a right handed shooter coming down on a right handed catching goalie (and a left handed shooter on a left handed catching goalie) have an advantage in that they can go high to the blocker side without having to shoot across their body. If they deke, they can go forehand and not have to worry about beating the glove hand.

    It also doesn’t surprise me that the platoon advantage appears to be most severe for left handed shooters shooting on right handed goalies. Every goalie sees tons of right handed and left handed shots in practice. Not every shooter sees tons of right handed catching goalies though – last year, probably only Edmonton, the Panthers, the Islanders, Colorado, Anaheim, Minnesota and LA had any kind of time shooting against a right handed goalie in practice. This might not be such a big deal for right handed shooters, for whom there’s seemingly an advantage in shooting against a right handed catching goalies but for left handed shooters, it might be something that really throws them off.

    SOplatoon2

    This is enough to make me wonder, so I looked at last year’s numbers. What do we have? Well there appeared to be no platoon advantage last year with respect to left handed goalies – right handed shooters actually did better against them than left handed shooters did. With right handed goalies though, the effect was tremendous. Right handed shooters shot 33.8% against them, a success rate that falls right in between the 33.1% and 34.7% achieved by left and right handed shooters respectively against left handed catching goalies. Left handers though, got destroyed by right handed catching goalies, succeeding at only an 18.4% clip. (Sample size: ridiculously small.)

    I put together the numbers for all of the goalies to see if someone was distorting it (basically, Garon’s big year). Even without Garon’s big year, there’s a substantial edge for the right handed catching goalies against left handed shooters, as can be seen in the chart.

    Another interesting fact from last year: left handed shooters on teams that have a right handed catching goalie: ie. teams where the left handed shots have some experience facing right handed goalies because of practice, went 5/20 against them in shootouts, for a 25% shooting percentage. Players on teams without a right handed catching goalie went 11/67, or 16.4%. The samples are too small to mean anything but that conforms with what I expected.

    There’s enough here that I’m at least suspicious that this effect is real. Having gone this far, I thought I’d look and see whether there’s any team that might have benefitted from being aware of this. I came across one: the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks, who missed the playoffs by three points last year, lost five shootouts of those shootouts to teams with right handed catching goalies.

    On November 14, 2007, the Canucks played the Oilers. Scoreless after 65, they went to the shootout. Mathieu Garon turned aside lefties Byron Ritchie (I don’t understand this selection at all) and Brendan Morrison as the Oilers won 1-0 in three rounds.

    On November 20, 2007, the Canucks again played the Oilers. The game was tied at 4 after 65. Mathieu Garon stopped lefties Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison and the Oilers won 2-1 in a five round shootout. Righty Trevor Linden scored for the Canucks, who also threw righties Ryan Kesler and Brad Isbister at the Oilers.

    On December 15, 2007, yet another Canucks and Oilers game went to the shootout. Edmonton won again, 2-1 in 4 rounds. Vancouver threw lefties Alex Burrows (see my thoughts about Ritchie) and Taylor Pyatt at the Oilers – neither scored.

    On February 1, 2008, Vancouver and Florida went to a shootout. The Canucks threw a trio of lefties at righty Tomas Vokoun. They lost the shootout 1-0 on Nathan Horton’s goal in the first round.

    Finally, on February 27, 2008, the Canucks lost their fifth shootout of the year to a right handed catching goalie. They only got two shooters into this one, as Colorado went up 2-0 but one of those shooters was Mason Raymond.

    All told, the Canucks went 1/14 with left handed shots against right handed catching goalies. Replace those with righties and maybe they get an extra 2 or 3 goals…not a certainty but, given that there’s a bit of an historic trend here, that might have been something that they wanted to look into doing.

    One final note – the SO records for right handed goalies since 2005-06. In addition to the aforementioned guys, Martin Prusek and Nolan Schaeffer are right handed catching goalies who’ve played shootout games since 2005-06. The righties have a combined record of 60-35, good for a .632 winning percentage. When you take out the righty/righty games, the record looks even better: 56-31, which comes out to a .644 winning percentage.

    I’m not completely sure that this is real as opposed to random, but it strikes me as amazing that a group of goaltenders who, outside of Vokoun and arguably DiPietro, have not particularly distinguished themselves over the past three years, have done so well in the shootout. This is neat stuff and a good catch by Hoag last summer.

    About Tyler Dellow

    38 Responses to A post that may be of interest to Mathieu Garon’s agent (and Canuck fans)

    1. Oilman
      July 12, 2008 at

      Tyler – I mentioned this last year on one of your blogs and was too lazy/did not know how to accurately come up with the data. Either way – Vic (and maybe you – can’t remember) absolutely lambasted me for suggesting such a thing. I recalled a specific quote from Cheechoo who said something to the effect of “when you’re used to practicing against a left handed catcher, you don’t know what to do when shooting on a righty – if low blocker side is now low glove, it’s weird.” Just quoting an NHL sniper was considered anecdotal and as such worthless;o)

    2. Oilman
      July 12, 2008 at

      BTW – if the Oilers play Garon/Deslauriers as their tandem at some point this season, I’m pretty sure we’ll be the first righty pair in the League since Garon/Theodore in Montreal. I’m not sure what that will do to the Oilers SO shooting percentage against mostly lefty opposition – but I’m willing to bet it won’t be good.

    3. Oilman
      July 12, 2008 at

      and one more thing – Cheechoo shoots right.

    4. July 13, 2008 at

      It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if this turned into a permanent trend – I also wonder what percentage of NHL goaltenders are left-handed as compared to the general population – one would think that if there’s an advantage in the shootout it would carry through to regulation play.

    5. mc79hockey
      July 13, 2008 at
    6. Oilman
      July 13, 2008 at

      jonathon – I don’t think one has to do with the other. I’m right handed and I play goal and catch right…the percentages based on left handedness in the general population might be comparable – but you don’t have to be left handed to catch right – much like batting or shooting right generally has little to do with handedness (imo)

    7. mc79hockey
      July 13, 2008 at

      I’d like to see the actual debate Oilman.

    8. July 13, 2008 at

      If you have a free choice of which hand to catch with, and you’re a natural right-hander, wouldn’t you want your right hand on the stick for poke checks? Plus most of us are taught to catch baseballs with our left pretty early on, no?

      I would assume the small number of right-handed catching goalies consists mostly of natural lefties.

    9. July 13, 2008 at

      I’d like to see the debate as well, Oilman, I have no recollection of it.

      MC:

      If we were to assume that there was no left-shooter/right-catching-goalie effect … and you figured out the odds of them stopping the left shooters 71 times or more in 87 chances, based on the save percentages in all other cases … you’d be around 880 to 1 odds against that happening by coincidence alone. That’s a touch simplistic, because we’re ignoring the track record of all goalies involved, but it’s good for a first blush check, and it should be near as dammit.

      So even though, as you say, the sample size is really small … it’s a very compelling result.

      And it is highly probable that adding in the data from the previous two seasons will strengthen the argument.

      And it is highly probable that it will repeat this season too.

      As you say, a terrific find by Dirk Hoag. And a terrific job of breaking it down here. Dead reasonable stuff imo.

    10. July 13, 2008 at

      I’d just like to say Garon is the King of shoot-outs. Look at his history, he’s been successful in more than one season.

      Anecdotal evidence the other way: (Lefties who scored…):
      Steve Reinprecht
      Andy McDonald
      Brian Rolston
      Petteri Nummelin
      Todd White
      Eric Staal
      (on 72 total shots)
      Assuming 44 LHS (based on 72*60% LH)
      6 goals on 44 shots: 14%
      Total of 13 G/72 shots 18%
      Not all that big of a difference (although estimated)
      Also, If you drop out the “lucky” 18/18 this season you’re left with 6 on 26, which is 23%.

      The sample size for RHG is so small that Garon’s share (20%) dominates the results and he is arguably the best shoot-out goalie in the league

    11. Oilman
      July 13, 2008 at

      I’ll try to find it

    12. July 13, 2008 at

      Java:

      I’m not following. Are those the lefty shooters that took the most shootout shots? Beyond that I have no idea what is being presented there. I’m sure it’s sensible, I just don’t know what it is.

      Also, seeing Staal’s name there reminds me, he beat Garon cleanly with a penalty shot last year. Somebody else beat Garon on a clear breakaway that same road trip I think.

      And even if you weed out Garon (which seems a bit unfair, plus you’re then giving a hard whack to the sample size as well) … even at that p = 0.04 using the simple methodology above.

      In more intuitive terms … if you believed that there was nothing in this theory of The Forechecker and MC79hockey, then you’d use the save% from all other situations to predict that RH goalies would save 66.2% of the shots they faced.

      Even ignoring Garon (and I don’t think he has a played in all that many shootouts before this season, so I’m not sure how extensive that the track record is, the odds of the remaining RH goalies stopping 53+ shots out of 69 … about 26 to 1.

      All the arrows are pointing the same direction I think. Though going back through the first two years of the shootout should remove all doubt. I hope that one of us gets around to that eventually.

    13. PDO
      July 13, 2008 at

      I’m a lefty shot and I hate playing RH goalies. Low blocker is just a money shot if I have all day… and it’s not there any more.

    14. Oilman
      July 13, 2008 at

      If you have a free choice of which hand to catch with, and you’re a natural right-hander, wouldn’t you want your right hand on the stick for poke checks? Plus most of us are taught to catch baseballs with our left pretty early on, no?

      I would assume the small number of right-handed catching goalies consists mostly of natural lefties.

      The reason I catch right is because I shoot right and the stick feels awkward turned the other way. I still catch left and throw right in baseball.

    15. mc79hockey
      July 13, 2008 at

      I think I found the Cheechoo quote, although it’s not shootout related:

      “Jonathan Cheechoo, the Sharks’ top goal scorer with 26, said that as a right-hand shot, he would rather be facing a right-handed catcher such as Garon.

      “Most goals are scored to the stick side,” Cheechoo said.

      A right-catching goalie holds his stick in his left hand, he explained, theoretically giving right-handed shooters a better chance to score.”

    16. mc79hockey
      July 13, 2008 at

      OK. Here is a clip from the Oilers WEM autograph day this year. I think you see Garon at the 2:21 mark, signing a goalie stick with his left hand.

      Here’s Vokoun signing left handed. Another interesting article about him.

      Theo is left handed, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.

      And, slightly less reputable, amiannoying.com says Rick DiPietro is left handed.

    17. mc79hockey
      July 13, 2008 at

      Here’s a pic of Garon signing lefty.

      I hear where you’re coming from Oilman – I played net for a while as a kid and I shoot/throw right so I had the same problems. I suspect that the vast majority in that situation make the same compromise that people like me and CuJo make – they’re abysmal puck handling goalies.

    18. July 13, 2008 at

      This reminds me of that conversation we had in the ABC draft room about Canadian baseball players mostly hitting left rather than right. I believe Tyler checked and found that to be true, and we assumed it was because of the way they were raised to shoot with a hockey stick. My question is, do American hockey players mostly shoot right?

    19. July 13, 2008 at

      My question is, do American hockey players mostly shoot right?

      They do.

    20. skinny65
      July 13, 2008 at

      This odd little statistical nugget reminded me of one I thought of in the playoffs and still haven’t had answered, so I thought I’d post it here and see if anyone knew the answer.
      With all the talk that goes on about home ice advantage, I was wondering what the face off percentage is for home teams. Wondering in essence, does putting your stick down last really matter?
      Anyone?

    21. PDO
      July 13, 2008 at

      Skinny:

      I don’t have any numbers… but I’d be shocked if the home team didn’t come out on top over time.

    22. Oilman
      July 13, 2008 at

      This reminds me of that conversation we had in the ABC draft room about Canadian baseball players mostly hitting left rather than right. I believe Tyler checked and found that to be true, and we assumed it was because of the way they were raised to shoot with a hockey stick. My question is, do American hockey players mostly shoot right?

      Also , have you ever noticed the ridiculous amount of left handed shooting golfers in Canada?

    23. oilman
      July 14, 2008 at

      Tyler – that isn’t the quote I was looking for. It was this past season and it was an interview post game with Principe asking him to try to explain the Oilers success in shootouts this season – one reason he gave was Garon catching right handed (although he had just faced Roloson??)

      I also looked at a few more pictures of goalies signing autographs – looks like Tony Esposito and Mike Palmateer were left handed too. Grant Fuhr golfs right handed and appears to hold everything in his right hand, so he seems to be an exception. No word on Bob Mason or Darren Puppa.

    24. PDO
      July 14, 2008 at

      Man…..

      This thread would be real ammunition for a guy like Brownlee when he says some of the “BLOGGERS” have way too much time on their hands.

    25. July 14, 2008 at

      Also , have you ever noticed the ridiculous amount of left handed shooting golfers in Canada?

      It’s a well-documented phenomenon, as is the prevalence of left-handed hitters amongst Canadian major leaguers.

    26. July 14, 2008 at

      Top ten postwar Canadian batters by total hits:

      Larry Walker, 2160
      Jeff Heath, 1447
      Terry Puhl, 1361
      Matt Stairs, 1286
      Corey Koskie, 936
      Pete Ward, 776
      Jason Bay, 718
      Justin Morneau, 685
      Dave McKay, 441
      Russell Martin, 372

      Bay and Martin hit right-handed, McKay was a switch-hitter. The other seven all batted left and threw righty.

    27. July 14, 2008 at

      So wait, I’m the weird one for shooting, batting, golfing, and throwing and writing right-handed? WTF.

    28. July 14, 2008 at

      Interestingly, Roloson, despite catching left, is left-handed as well (or, at least, he writes his left hand).

      This probably explains why he “shoots” right when playing the puck, as most players shoot opposite to their dominant hand.

    29. Oilman
      July 14, 2008 at

      So wait, I’m the weird one for shooting, batting, golfing, and throwing and writing right-handed? WTF.

      I’ve got you beat – I do all those and catch with my right hand in goal.

    30. RiversQ
      July 14, 2008 at

      No word on Bob Mason or Darren Puppa.

      I can honestly say this is a sentence I never would have anticipated ever reading, hearing or even thinking.

    31. July 14, 2008 at

      Also note that Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic, in our victory against USA, fielded no less than SEVEN lefties out of nine starting batters. (And Adam Loewen, the lefty pitcher who shut down Wells/ARod/D-Lee/Chipper)

    32. July 15, 2008 at

      So wait, I’m the weird one for shooting, batting, golfing, and throwing and writing right-handed? WTF.

      For most right-handed Canadians, using a hockey stick will be the foundational activity, and you’ll be taught to do so left-handed. So, yeah, you are weird. I’m the same way as you, probably because I came from a baseball household and swung a bat right-handed first and then transferred that to street hockey and golf.

    33. July 15, 2008 at

      I’ve got you beat – I do all those and catch with my right hand in goal.

      I’ve never played goal, so I don’t know, but I can see myself doing that, just imagining it, simply because I already shoot “backwards.”

      For most right-handed Canadians, using a hockey stick will be the foundational activity, and you’ll be taught to do so left-handed.

      Maybe that’s it: I was never taught either way. I got Dad’s old lefty sticks, cut down, for street hockey, but I just used them backwards. My wrist shot was pathetic, but my backhand was the best in the neighbourhood. Killer.

      He did try to get me to catch left and throw right, but it felt wrong no matter which way I did it.

    34. Bruce
      July 15, 2008 at

      It’s a few (20-25?) years ago now, but the Russians once iced an entire team in one of the major competitions with nothing but LH shooters.

    35. Rob
      July 15, 2008 at

      Why are we taught to shoot Left? I shoot left in hockey, but I don’t remember being encouraged to go left rather than right, and I don’t remember any shortage of right handed shooters among the other kids?

      What advantage does left have over right?

    36. oilman
      July 15, 2008 at

      i don’t think there is an advantage other than if you’re left handed, having your dominant hand as you “power” hand at the bottom of the stick should give you a harder shot – the same should be true for righties.

      I wonder if the low percentage of right handed catching goalies would have anything to do with the availability of right handed equipment. When I was a kid I didn’t get an honest to goodness real left hand blocker until I was about 14 and had been wearing a modified right handed one for years – a catching glove was even harder to find – I was lucky enough to have a relative find a broken down used one in Winnipeg. But go into a sporting goods store – especially in small town NF where I’m from, and the south paw goalie equipment just wasn’t available….luckily, we have Ebay now;o)

    37. Oilman
      July 15, 2008 at

      I’ve kind of beaten this topic to death – but here are some interesting quotes that apply:

      When a player is shooting against a right-handed catching goalie, the sight appears backwards to them, sparking that sliver of hesitation.

      “It’s a total flip for what you’re used to seeing,” said New Jersey Devils winger Jamie Langenbrunner, a right-handed shot who scored 23 goals last season. “It changes what angles you are coming from and what your eyes see.”

      Players try to prepare for the change as best as they can.

      ”You make a note of it (facing a right-catching goalie) so you know what you’re looking at when you take the shot,” Langenbrunner said. “But a lot of times things happen so quickly in a game you are picking certain spots to shoot at as far as what you don’t see with the goalie as opposed to what you do see.”

      it affected Vokoun when he was growing up in the Czech Republic trying to obtain left-handed equipment.

      “I used to have trouble getting equipment when I was really young in the Czech Republic,” Vokoun said. “Everything had to be custom made back then because there were almost no goalies that caught with their right hand. Since everything was custom made, it was really expensive for my parents to get me equipment.”

    38. July 16, 2008 at

      I always found playing net with a right-handed glove easier, but they’re too hard to come by so I generally play with a LH glove. So I play both left and right in net, golf, and baseball, but throw right, and shoot left (If I’m playing out). I also snowboard goofy, which I think is basically the same as shooting left. I’m right-handed, but I’m pretty sure handedness has nothing to do with directional preference.

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