On Dec. 15, Philipp Grubauer faced 39 shots against the Carolina Hurricanes and put the Kraken in a position to steal a game they had had no interest being in. It was an ugly game with the Kraken having just 33 percent of the shot attempts, and despite the Kraken being down 3-0 halfway though the game, they were very close to tying it in the third before eventually losing 3-2.

That was the moment I felt Grubauer turned the corner and started to be the goalie we expected he could be when the Kraken signed him in the summer of 2021, before the Kraken’s inaugural season. Ever since that game, I have felt that Grubauer should have earned more starts. Without further ado, I present my case for handing the net over to Philipp Grubauer.

Goal support

If you just look at the win-loss results for the two goaltenders this season, Martin Jones appears to be the better goalie, posting a record of 23-9-3 versus Grubauer’s 6-9-2. However, we know that wins and losses have a lot to do with how the team plays in front of the goaltender. For that, let us look at goal scoring by the Kraken for each starting goaltender.

In addition to the roughly 1.7 goals the Kraken average for Jones over Grubauer, 20 times or 59 percent of Jones’s starts, the Kraken score four goals or more. Sunday’s game against the Flyers was only the fourth time the Kraken have scored four or more goals for Grubauer. In fact, the Kraken have not scored more than four goals for any Grubauer start all season.

Save percentage

In a somewhat dated way of evaluating goalies, we can simply look at save percentage to evaluate the two goaltenders this year.

When we look at the chart, we can see that Grubauer has been steadily outperforming Jones in the save percentage category, but as I mentioned before, this is a slightly antiquated approach. Save percentage treats all shots as equal and does not consider the quality of the shots the goaltenders face when evaluating their performance.

Shot quality

I will not spend a lot of time talking about shot quality metrics, but the premise is that shots closer to the net and with a good angle are considered high-danger shots. Conversely, shots farther away and/or at a harsh angle to the net, are considered medium- or low-danger quality. For more information on shot quality, here is a nice breakdown from Alison Lukan.

Here is how save percentage breaks down at even strength by quality of shot. It is split into high-danger save percentage, medium-danger save percentage, and low-danger save percentage.

As the chart shows, Grubauer has a higher save percentage in all three categories over the season. The numbers are even more slanted in Grubi’s favor if you look at the numbers since Dec. 1.

Expected goals against versus actual goals against

The analytics community also has a statistic for evaluating a goalie’s performance called expected goals against. Keeping it simple, imagine expected goals against is what the most average goalie in the league would expect to give up if they were in net for the same exact shots that a goalie took in that game. You then take the difference of the expected goals against versus the actual goals against, and that will determine how well or poorly the goalie played compared to an average goalie in the same scenario.

For example, based on the location and scenarios around all the shots against in a game, if the expected goals against was 3.54 and the actual goals against was 3.00, then the difference would be -.54. Meaning, the goaltender saved .54 goals more than we would have expected from the average goaltender. For more on the expected goals statistic, checkout another great article by Alison.

This visual is a little more challenging to interpret, but you are looking for more dots below the zero line.

I added a reference line to show the direction each goaltender has trended lately, and it clearly shows Grubauer headed the right way and Jones heading the opposite way. One other insight I see on the chart is that Grubi’s last five starts have been better than average, and he has had only four starts that were below average this entire season.

It’s Grubauer’s time

I know that there are several flaws with strictly evaluating data to determine who should start in net for the Kraken, but all signs are pointing to Grubauer playing the best he has played in a Kraken uniform. He deserves a shot at getting a more regular cadence of games.

What are your thoughts?

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