NHL Goalie Stats Can Deceive – Kolzig v. Brodeur – Capitals Convention Is Upon Us!
I am making a very unique exception today. Normally, I stay away from statistics in the blog. In honor of the fact that my all-time favorite NHL player and goalie extraordinaire, Olie Kolzig, will be speaking about the Washington Capitals Stanely Cup playoff run this Saturday at the CAPS convention (where I’ll be this Saturday), I decided to break tradition. There are stats galore in this post. All NHL stats are courtesy of NHL.com. Two disclaimers before I begin: 1) I am not at all making an attempt to convince anyone that Olie Kolzig is a better netminder than Martin Brodeur (okay, maybe just a little) and 2) I checked each number twice before I included it here.
Also, quickly, many thanks to everyone who sent good tidings and positive thoughts after reading my last blog entry. I am still working and as eager as ever for the NHL season to begin. I’ve moved to a residence that is not smack in the middle of the “Great Hockey Void” and I can watch hockey on regular cable now as well. Even though I am unable to move into my own apartment due to recent vehicle repair and medical expenses, I am renting space in a house from someone who can help me get to work and doctor’s appointments. Plus, I am much closer to Washington D.C., which of course translates to the all important idea that I now have a much higher of chance of getting to a CAPS practice or game this season. I’m not receiving any chemotherapy or radiation treatments, but I’ll get into that another time.
I’m no stranger to touting the virtues of Olie “The Goalie” Kolzig, so this post will be focused on revisiting a particular former post of mine. I couldn’t bare the thought of never addressing something I wrote to Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post (D.C. Sports Bog). Yes, I did state that Olie is “no Martin Brodeur” – BUT – Marty is NO OLIE KOLZIG either and to make that point, statistics will come in handy. Let’s look at the five season period between 2002 and 2008. Remember that the ’04 – ’05 season was the lockout year and is not included. I’ve chosen those five seasons since they were Kolzig’s last five seasons as a Washington Capital and both he and Brodeur (NJD) were the starting netminders, each playing for the same respective teams for all five of those seasons.
Which of the two netminders do you think had the better SV% in the ’02-’03 season? Well, it wasn’t Brodeur at .914, so it must have been Kolzig at .919 that year. This is significant in light of the fact that Brodeur’s defense was busy up-ice, taking 711 shots on goal that season, getting only 284 PIMs that season. Kolzig’s defense, however, was busy racking-up a whopping 606 PIMs, while only taking 598 shots on goal. What an astute fan of hockey can deduce from these numbers is a better understanding of the differences between the New Jersey Devils and the Washington Capitals. Even a superstar goalie can never have stats that are better than the team for which he plays. While Marty’s defense was creating fewer PKs and more goal scoring chances, inversely, Olie’s defense was creating more PKs and fewer goal scoring chances.
As a matter of fact, during those five seasons, Kolzig posted a grand total of 2289 PP SA (Saves Against), while Brodeur came in far less at 1728 PP SA total. If you think about those numbers for a moment, you might then realize that the Washington Capitals had Power Play chances during which Olie was busy making saves against. Marty, on the other hand, lucky enough to play for the new Jersey Devils, was not as burdned with making saves while his team was on a Power Play. If a netminder has to make that many saves while his own team is on a PP (one man up should be an advantage shouldn’t it?), then can you imagine how hard it might be for that same goalkeeper when his team is playing at even strength?
The short-handed SA(shots against totals for those five seasons are more even between Kolzig (317) and Brodeur (306). That’s a good thing if you’re Marty, because he also played an average of about 15 more games per season than Olie. Brodeur’s numbers are spread out over 75.2 games per season, while Kolzig’s numbers are condensed into an average of 59.2 games per season. That means Olie was handling more short-handed shots on goal (5.4 per game on average) each season on PKs than Marty (4.1 per game on average).
Speaking of receiving more shots in defense of the net per game, the number of shots against (SA) Olie “The Goalie” Kolzig in those five seasons backing the Washington Capitals as they sunk in the ranks and then barely started moving-up again, averaged 31 per game. Yet, Martin Brodeur had more vacation time back there, defending the Devil’s blue paint during that same time period with an average of 26 SA per game. To put this simply, Olie was on a team that allowed him to get shelled and only made it to the playoffs twice in those five seasons, while Marty was on a team that kept the puck out of his territory more often and made it the playoffs five times in that same time frame, once winning Lord Stanely’s Cup.
You tell me, do you think Brodeur’s numbers would look as they do if he played his career in Washington D.C., facing a Capitals combined team plus/minus total in the seasons between 2002 and 2008 of -75? Do you think Kolzig would be considered a better guardian of the crease if he played his career in New Jersey where the Devil’s combined team plus/minus total of +73 between 2002 and 2008? Would the great #30, Martin Brodeur, have had the mental toughness and focus to hit the blue paint as often and successfully for the Capitals as he has with the Devils? Kolzig went out on the ice, more often than not, knowing he was up against ever-decreasing odds that he would win a Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals – and yet, he did it anyway.
Who’s the better netminder? You know my answer. ROCK ON OLIE KOLZIG – ROCK ON!!!
Numbers are great and they serve the world in many awe-inspiring ways, but if the number freaks out there want to live and die by them, be aware that when it comes to goalies in general, and especially in terms of Olaf Kolzig, I’ll find a way to use them against you if you plan to make light of his contribution to the Washington Capitals.
Go get your Washington Capitals Convention on and happy NHL pre-season everyone. Cancer sucks – peace – mia – email@example.com GO BOLTS!