• If a Canucks win is inevitable…it’s not all bad

    by Tyler Dellow • June 12, 2011 • Post, Uncategorized • 31 Comments

    2) How many times does Roberto have to redeem himself? I couldn’t believe the racket about Schneider starting game five. Luongo was the only possible choice.
    -Tom Benjamin

    When the Canucks win the Stanley on Monday night, there will be a few things from which I will draw solace. It’s tough to begrudge the Tom Benjamin group of Canucks fans, the 5,000 or so decent people who cheer for the team and were supporting it when the Canucks were terrible, their moment in the sun, even if it’s tempting to let the other two or three million horrible Canucks fans overwhelm them in your assessment of their contemptible fanbase. While the team itself is full of players who you want to experience nothing but failure, I’ve long liked the way that Daniel and Henrik played the game, defending by possessing the puck. Watching Raffi Torres on the bench during G5, I was reminded of seeing him sitting on the bench after G7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006, head down along with many other Oilers, while MacT walked the bench, slapping guys on the back and congratulating them on a great season that fell a little short. I’ll be happy for him on Monday.

    I’ve also been a long time fan of Roberto Luongo and will be happy for him. I’ll be even more happy for what, hopefully, will be a diminution of the “Luongo is mentally fragile” meme. While that may or many not be true, as I discuss below, it’s hard to distinguish between his career to date and the playoff career of Martin Brodeur to the same age, other than Brodeur had a whole lot more in the way of opportunity.

    I was talking to James Mirtle the other night and got to trying to think of a Canadian athlete who’s been under more pressure to perform than Roberto Luongo has over the last sixteen months, between the Canucks’ efforts in the playoffs and stepping into the crease for Team Canada in the Olympics. I’m not sure that I can think of any since the team that played in the 1972 Summit Series. A lot of Luongo’s pressure comes from his reputation as being something less than a big game player, which has struck me as unfair in that Luongo, through no fault of his own, hasn’t exactly had the opportunity to play in a lot of big games.

    It isn’t Roberto Luongo’s fault that he didn’t appear in the Stanley Cup playoffs until 2007, ten years after he was drafted. The NHL’s cartel results in elite players being shunted onto terrible, inept teams that are improperly run. Elite players like Luongo are surrounded by players who aren’t good enough to make the playoffs. The Sedins were understandably a bit upset with Mike Milbury after he took some jabs at the the other day; the guy with the real beef with Milbury is Luongo, who got drafted onto a hockey team that was a mess and then traded by Milbury to another complete disaster of a team.

    In addition, we have an almost regal line of succession to the goaltending seat on the Canadian national team, with a healthy Canadian streak of patronage. The throne itself is controlled by whichever NHL team happens to be running the national team at the time. If that team has a player who can plausibly considered the best goaltender in the world and he has not suffered a loss that can be blamed on him, that goaltender will hold the throne until such time as control of the national team or a bad defeat happens.

    It took an ugly loss in the 2010 Olympics and a management/coaching team that didn’t have a goalie in the mix for Martin Brodeur to lose his spot to Luongo. Of course, if Luongo hadn’t spent his career rotting in New York and Florida, at the mercy of guys who haven’t put together records that attract the attention of Hockey Canada, he might have had his opportunity sooner – few would argue that Brodeur was a better goalie than Luongo in 2006.

    As a result of all of this, Luongo’s career has featured few really big games. Outside of the gold medal win, a lot of his great performances have either been in support of a vastly outpowered team (Canada v. Russia, 1997 WJC, the 2006-07 Canucks’ playoff run) or cameo roles in a tournament in which he wasn’t starting (his performance against the Czechs in the 2004 World Cup.) The mythmaking of hockey is such that once you’ve won a Stanley Cup, for whatever reason, your capacity to win the big game is no longer in question. Your play at a certain time might be questioned but not your ability to win. You’re a winner. Is this sensible? I don’t think so, but there’s lots of things I don’t understand.

    Is there some basis to think that Luongo blows up more than he should in the playoffs? I don’t really think so. I grabbed his playoff career to date as well as the career of Martin Brodeur to the same age. It’s become a bit more acceptable to acknowledge Brodeur’s playoff failures of late but the period in question here – his career up to 2003-04 – covers the period in which he built the legend. The first chart that I’ve put together is a breakdown of their playoff appearances by save percentage.

    bobbylu

    Your eye might be drawn to Luongo’s greater frequency of games in the .825 or below range. 7 of his 57 playoff games have resulted in that outcome, compared to 12 of Brodeur’s 143 in the period in question. It’s just not a major difference though – two fewer .825 or worse games for Luongo and he’d be the same as Brodeur. A total of five more shots and saves in two games and he’d be there. Brodeur then owns the majority of the games between .825 and .900 – 17.5% of Luongo’s playoff starts resulted in a save percentage in that range compared to 25.2% for Brodeur. 59.6% of Luongo’s playoff appearances saw him post a save percentage between .900 and .975 compared to 51% for Brodeur. Finally, Brodeur enjoys a substantial edge in the .975 or better games – 15.4% of his appearances ended up there to 10.5% for Luongo.

    A further point that bears some mention – the typical Roberto Luongo playoff game features a lot more shots than the typical Martin Brodeur playoff game during the period in question. Luongo has seen 30.2 shots per 60 minutes per playoff appearance. Brodeur, for the period in question, saw 23.5 shots per 60 minutes. That’s a pretty massive difference and is going to affect, in particular, the number of shutouts that each player posts. If you have two goalies, one of whom sees 30 shots per appearance and the other who sees 24 shots per appearance, both of whom have a 92% chance of stopping a given shot, you’d expect the guy who seems 24 shots per appearance to post a shutout every seven games or so and the guy who sees 30 shots per appearance to post a shutout every 12 games or so. Same ability but the extra six shots per reduces the shutout frequency substantially. I’ve put together a chart of the expected frequency of x goals against, based on 30 shots and 24 shots against per game, and a .920 skill level at stopping pucks.

    bobbylu2

    You’ll note that the guy seeing 30 shots per game is far less likely to post a shutout and more likely to have a 7 or 8 goal disaster. Finally, I’ve sorted the playoff appearances of Luongo and Brodeur by save percentage and then looked at the nth percentile for each to see if the dispersion is all that different. It isn’t. Generally speaking, Brodeur has the higher save percentages at each percentile but it’s slight and his overall save percentage during the period in question was a bit higher than Luongo’s – similar dispersion, just with Brodeur having a slightly higher average. There’s not much to pick from there.

    bobbylu3

    As I indicated above, I don’t think Luongo’s going to silence all of the media criticism when he skates around the ice with the Stanley Cup on Monday (or, possibly, Wednesday) but I sure hope this ends at least some of it. There’s not a lot to pick from between his career and that of Brodeur in the playoffs (other than the Stanley Cups, which are a team award) and Luongo simply hasn’t had Brodeur’s at-bats. The meme about his struggles looks a lot like narrative bullshit – there will be a bit more truth in hockey writing if it disappears.

    About Tyler Dellow

    31 Responses to If a Canucks win is inevitable…it’s not all bad

    1. PDO
      June 13, 2011 at

      Best of luck to the Vancouver Cancuks tomorrow night.

    2. June 13, 2011 at

      you’d expect the guy who seems 24 shots per appearance to post a shutout every seven games or so and the guy who sees 30 shots per appearance to post a shutout.

      …every how many games?

      Also, seems you and Willis had the same thought. Both good articles.

    3. Magicpie
      June 13, 2011 at

      When the Canucks win the Stanley on Monday night, there will be a few things from which I will draw solace. It’s tough to begrudge the Tom Benjamin group of Canucks fans, the 5,000 or so decent people who cheer for the team and were supporting it when the Canucks were terrible, their moment in the sun, even if it’s tempting to let the other two or three million horrible Canucks fans overwhelm them in your assessment of their contemptible fanbase.

      Dear jackass,

      Where you get your omniscient view of how many fans were supporting the Canucks at any given time I don’t know, but ignoring that for a moment: every fan base in Canada is pretty much the same. They all love hockey, they’d all turn up and go crazy if their team won. Attempting to classify one group of millions and millions of people as ‘good’ or ‘bad; hockey fans based on the team they cheer for is idiotic.

      By the way, the Canucks have the longest sellout streak in the NHL (8+ years). They basically turned every game in San Jose during the Conference finals into a Canuck home game. And I don’t know if you’ve been in downtown Vancouver during the past couple of weeks, but you can ask James Mirtle or any other media buddies of yours how it was, and whether the city’s reaction was that of a group of bad hockey fans.

      Sincerely,

      One of the two or three million

    4. Tyler Dellow
      June 13, 2011 at

      Heh. There’s a fair amount of scientific evidence that most people overrate their own abilities – everyone thinks that they’re above average. I like how this guy reads the post and just knows that he’s one of the bad Canuck fans.

      BTW – I’m not saying people are good or bad hockey fans, so much as they’re good or bad people. The chunk of the fanbase that cheered Luongo getting pulled and thinks Bertuzzi got a bad rap? Bad people.

      They may or may not be bad hockey fans as well – that’s an open question.

    5. June 13, 2011 at

      One thing about comparing Luongo and Brodeur’s careers to this point, however, is that the Brodeur numbers come from an age where save percentages were significantly lower across the league.

    6. June 13, 2011 at

      Yep, have to adjust for era.

      Another thought: Do goaltenders who face fewer shots generally have higher or lower save percentages? Guys like Vokoun seem to rack up massive ones while facing a ton of shots.

    7. Tyler Dellow
      June 13, 2011 at

      I disagree on the adjusting for era issue. I’m only trying to compare their best and worst performances to see if Luongo has a markedly more significant tendency to blow up, not argue over which is the better or more valuable goaltender.

      There’s some evidence to suggest that guys who see more shots generally have a higher save percentage, although I think it’s mostly to do with scorer bias – if you’re consistently extremely low or extremely high, you might play with a miserly/generous shot counter.

    8. June 13, 2011 at

      What qualified as a blow up has changed as save percentages have shifted up by an average of 10 per cent.

      And no one can argue Luongo’s overall body of work is poor. He’s near the top of the list in career save percentage in both the regular and postseason.

    9. June 13, 2011 at

      James, last year I wrote a blog post on Luongo’s SV% that season in games broken down by the number of shots he faced. His numbers were better in games where he faced a high number of shots.

    10. Shawn McMann
      June 13, 2011 at

      I had Louongo prior to the third round at 5-9 in SC elimination games, let in 4+ five times and pulled or sat four times; and I didn’t love his third period or OT in the gold medal game last year either but that was just to my eye. While I admit to a massive anti-Canuck bias, I think it’s his hangdog body language after goals and seeming lack of fire that bother me more than anything, especially comparing him to the scrapper at the other end of the ice right now.

    11. Bruce McCurdy
      June 13, 2011 at

      Save percentage might be the best individual stat for goalies but it’s still an oversimplification.

      Some portion of that shots differential between the two is surely attributable to their individual playing styles, Luongo being more the pure stopper and Brodeur more of a sweeper. Wouldn’t account for 6 shots per game difference but likely 1 or 2, according to work done by the Contrarian Goaltender.

      Also the New Jersey shot counter is notoriously on the low end of the spectrum for whatever reason.

      other than the Stanley Cups, which are a team award

      … except that the teams that have better players tend to win more of them.

    12. Tyler Dellow
      June 13, 2011 at

      Bruce –

      I agree that Luongo’s style might account for an extra shot or two per game. If I look just at the road shots, I still have Brodeur with a healthy edge though: 26.4 to 30.7 per game.

      As for the team with the better players winning more Cups, I certainly agree, but I don’t think you’ll argue that the difference between Florida and Brodeur’s great Jersey teams lay in the goaltending.

    13. Bruce McCurdy
      June 13, 2011 at

      I would argue that was some of the difference, although a relatively small percentage compared to differences among skaters, coaching and management between the two franchises. One thing Florida did have was a very good goalie.

    14. June 13, 2011 at

      No offense to Tom Benjamin but the bad far outweighs the good in terms of the fans and it would be easier not to have your stomach turned if guys like Kesler, Burrows and Bieksa weren’t in the Dys employ.

      Not to mention that Luongo is an incredible sulk.

    15. Vic Ferrari
      June 13, 2011 at

      The Canucks are a douchebag team with douchebag fans. And it’s not my fault that this is true. The fact that almost everyone I like on the Internet holds the same opinion … it’s renewed my faith in humanity.

      Great game tonight. 4-0 in the first as I type this. Let’s go you Bs!

      Also, I’ve long been a supporter of the CBC, but this playoff season has me thinking that it’s time to dissolve the institution. Lest they commit more horrors in our name.

    16. June 13, 2011 at

      Vic: it’s a waste to see Hughson let himself go like this. I don’t care if Healy wants to be a dummy because I’ve never seen him be anything else and and Craig Simpson has never impressed me as an analyst.

      But Hughson is a real waste.

      A long time again – ’06 actually;) – the Oilers played the Sharks and Hughson was there identifying matchups and being everything that the smart fan wanted from the usually rote PBY man.

      And I know he used to work for the Canucks on Sportsnet West but he’s just let himself wander over into the land of subjectivity and I don’t think he’s interested in the way back.

      Remember what Sloan sang in “Coax Me.”? “it’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans.”?

      Well, I hate the band, I hate their fans, I hate their manager and I hate their ticket promoter:)

      I dunno, maybe the CBC was like this when the Oilers went 15 wins deep back in ’06 but I don’t remember it being that way.

    17. Tyler Dellow
      June 13, 2011 at

      We had Cole and Neale. They didn’t know any of the players on either team, which cut down in the homerism.

    18. Vic Ferrari
      June 13, 2011 at

      Yeah, Hughson used to really add value I thought. Always has been a homer for the Canucks, though. Still, for a long time he’s been the best PBP guy for non-Canucks games. For me, anyways.

      I don’t know what’s going on with CBC, they seem to be trying to convince us that Vancouver going to the Cup finals is a national event. It isn’t. It wasn’t when Edmonton and Ottawa made it to the finals either. Calgary in ’04 was a bit different I think. It had been such a long time since a Canadian team had been to the finals, plus they were an underdog team and the whole city went ape. And then there was the wonderful co-ed boob flashing craze. Unique circumstances there.

      Any road, I’d rather the CBC worried a bit less about creating a narrative and a bit more about broadcast quality and sane commentary.

    19. June 13, 2011 at

      @ Dennis:

      Agreed on Hughson. He’s capable of being a superb play-by-play man, in my opinion, one of the best out there, but listening to him cover Vancouver in the SCF has grated on my nerves.

    20. June 13, 2011 at

      @ Vic Ferrari:

      Like maybe giving us something better than the Zapruder film to judge the Raymond hit with?

    21. PDO
      June 13, 2011 at

      Best of luck to the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7.

    22. Shane Leavitt
      June 14, 2011 at

      Best of luck to the Boston Bruins in Game 7.

    23. PDO
      June 14, 2011 at

      Leave it to a Nuck fan to not understand a playoff tradition.

    24. PDO
      June 14, 2011 at

      The Oilers have 5.

      The Flames have 1.

      The Nucks are irrelevant.

    25. June 14, 2011 at

      Vic: I have been saying the same thing to my friends for the past couple of weeks. CBC thinks that it can ultimately create the story and then be a big part of it.

      I’ll also agree that the Flames story was bigger because of the Red Mile. The fans at Rexall were crazy and that was a neat story but it was also cool how the Flames fans took to the streets; even though I was obviously cheering against them:)

      Though, because of Hughson, I have much more hatred for the Dys than Cgy these days.

      Overall I know that ESPN has an ombudsman and occasionally you’d see his work on their website about how they could improve their programming. I’d like to think someone would take a look at HNIC’s body of work and suggest some changes.

      Canada isn’t the all-for-one, one-for-all cheering place that the CBC wants us to believe it is. The only team I could cheer for that would house Bieksa, Burrows, Kesler, Lapierre and Luongo is my own.

      I cheered for the Sens because they are non-threatening.

      I know enough Habs and Leafs fans that I will never cheer for those clubs.

      The Dys for a few reasons have joined that club as well.

    26. Bruce McCurdy
      June 14, 2011 at

      Last time I rooted for the Canucks they were playing the Flames … in ’94. Became an out-and-out hater during the Burke/Crawford/Bertuzzi/Cooke years, and even with those guys all long gone from the Northwest I have never really warmed to the squad. Gritted my teeth and backed Luongo in the Olympics, but the good news I ain’t never going to have to pull for that fucker Kesler.

    27. Milt the Stilt
      June 14, 2011 at

      Vic Ferrari wrote:”The Canucks are a douchebag team with douchebag fans.”

      That’s just nonsense. I’m an Oilers fan that moved to Van a while ago from Edmonton and I can tell you that hockey fans are hockey fans: 1/3 meat-head, 1/3 band-wagon, 1/3 rabid. Every hockey-town’s fan base is made up of the same mix. Suggesting one team’s fans are worse than another’s is really, just, well… silly (coming from the same place as nationalism or patriotism, but obviously at a much smaller scale, IMHO).

    28. Magicpie
      June 14, 2011 at

      That’s just nonsense. I’m an Oilers fan that moved to Van a while ago from Edmonton and I can tell you that hockey fans are hockey fans: 1/3 meat-head, 1/3 band-wagon, 1/3 rabid. Every hockey-town’s fan base is made up of the same mix. Suggesting one team’s fans are worse than another’s is really, just, well… silly (coming from the same place as nationalism or patriotism, but obviously at a much smaller scale, IMHO

      Finally someone in this thread says something reasonable.

    29. Vic Ferrari
      June 14, 2011 at

      Yeah Dennis, agreed on all counts.

      On Vancouver fans … I agree wholeheartedly with Tyler, and I have no idea why they are as they are. You certainly see the culture of a company shift with management, perhaps the same thing happened there.

      The only constant is that employees of companies with a culture of douchebaggery are oddly oblivious to the phenomenon. Pat at Black Dog has a good post on the subject. Twitter seems to have enabled VAN fans to remove all doubt.

      God bless them.

    30. June 15, 2011 at

      YOU ARE WRONG

    31. June 23, 2011 at

      Great post,I will read your post time to time.thank you!

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