I don’t know why but people seem to be incredible believers in the idea that they can time their selection of goalies. That they can pick out which goalie is hot and which is cold and make a decision accordingly. Hockey people seem to be almost worse than fans in this regard. I talked about this last year when Ralph Krueger went with Nikolai Khabibulin against Los Angeles after Khabibulin came into a game against Colorado that the Oilers were able to turn around. Here’s what Krueger had to say about his decision.
“You know Nikolai, from the start we said ‘Come in and bring energy when he gets the opportunity’ and I think you just have to have been in the building in the last game to understand that decision. It’s not against Dubnyk in any way shape or form. We’re very happy with Devan Dubnyk and his season and the way it’s gone. He had a couple of bizarre games in the way things devolved, like Duchene’s breakaway goal when he loses the puck after we had 15 shots in a row at the other end, you know it didn’t work out well there but Khabby came in with an amazing compete and good energy and let’s roll that today.”
This is what I thought then and still think now:
That said, I’m not really a believer that you can pick which goalie is going to be hot. It’s like timing the market or picking which slot machine is going to pay out. Play the guy who you reasonably expect is the best goalie, subject to the need to keep your backup fresh or to give your starter a break and get on with it. The Oilers didn’t do that last night – they sent out a guy with an extra goal or goal and a half in the chamber for every 100 shots the other team gets. They can’t afford to do it too many times this year.
There’s talk (from sensible people even!) that the Oilers should give Bachman the start against Toronto, even if Devan Dubnyk is recovered from his ankle knock. Bachman’s hot, he looked great against LA, etc. I don’t believe that that’s a reasonable inference to draw from Bachman’s great game. A table:
This asks the simplest question about goalies from 2005-13: for groups of goalie with save percentage X in Game 1, what was their save percentage in Game 2?
As you can see, the differences are pretty tiny. Keep in mind – the guys posting the horror show save percentages in Game 1 are more likely to be bad goalies and the guys posting great ones are more likely to be great goalies. The bad goalies of the world aren’t as likely to post a .950+ in Game 1 as the great goalies, so the sample for Game 2 is biased. The apparent difference is certainly larger than the real difference, in terms of what the first game tells us. A great goalie is more likely to have a great Game 1 than a bad goalie, which shows up in Game 2.
So who should the Oilers start if Dubnyk’s healthy? Start the guy you believe to be the better goalie. Chasing goaltending hot streaks is a fool’s game.Email Tyler Dellow at firstname.lastname@example.org