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.
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.
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.
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?
I think you’re a jackass who has no right determining which goalie should start in net
this checks out.
Martin I get it, you’ve had some really great moments in net this season and it’s hard not to take an article like this personally. But you’ve also dropped your last 3 and your performance has been slipping lately. I just really worry your focus isn’t where it needs to be right now seeing as you’ve spent an hour today replying in the comments section.
Great write-up as always, and a really good breakdown of how to evaluate the performance of both by raw numbers. I understood Hakstol wanting to ride the hot hand with Jones a little more even after Grubauer returned from injury, but even in the win streaks it seemed like Jones was starting to let more and more by him and it felt like just too much of Jones in the net as Grubauer was playing better. It’s hard to explain why the team plays better in front of Jones (although it’s probably inflated a bit by his shear number of starts during the team’s hotstreaks) but I’ve never fully bought into the reasoning that the team is more confident in his abilities and plays better. It feels like Grubauer has had a lot of bad luck on some good nights but even if the team doesn’t fully trust him yet, the man is signed here for the next 5 seasons and I doubt we’ll be able to move him any time soon. They better start learning how to play well in front of him.
you’re just about as big of an idiot as the author is.
I wonder if the difference in goals scored by the Kraken has to do with defensive alignment- if they have to play more defensively in front of Grub, they would naturally take less quality shots and score less as well.
I did ask around about this and some people claimed it wasn’t that big of a thing but did acknowledge there might have been times where the team did not trust Grubi based on last years performance. It might have merit but just hard to measure.
nothing like putting in a goalie that the team doesnt trust to handle shots! definitely screams the need for him to play more, idiot
I’d buy it either way watching tonight. Frankly I know nothing about hockey, and I’m just glad you guys are here to answer these questions as I learn!
Nice article, the stats make an interesting case. That said, the only stat I’m interested in is 23-9-3 vs 6-9-2. If that’s only because Jones wears luckier underwear than Grubauer, so be it. Until the wins start coming in greater numbers for Grubauer, I say stick with Jones.
Shutouts…. Jones 3… Grubauer 0… continues to squander every chance in net. But I guess numbers like that dont matter to the author. Lets take Gru’s current record, project his numbers to the same amount of games played as Jones and lets take a gander at what his stats would look like then.
I think Hak had a similar mindset of going with Jones, as long as they win but Jones has lost his last 3 starts with a save percentage under .900. Meanwhile Gru has won 2 out of his last 3 and has a save percentage over .900 over those games. If you don’t give Gru a chance now, when do you give him a chance?
I have seen stats that Grubi allows a high percentage of rebounds (in fact one of the worst in the league at that) which logically would inflate the number of in-close high danger shots. Thinking of how this may skew the “high danger” chances and saves. Theoretically, he would not be “set” for the high danger in-close good-angle *rebound* chances (as opposed to “regular”, non-rebound shots from the same areas), and then I think that this makes it all the more impressive that he is performing well in this category.
filtered for “rebounds above expected” column worst to best, he’s currently #8 overall.
I hope the team gets confidence in Gru – would love to see him hit his stride and the team back him up with offense.
I like those stats but one thing I would like to see is the actual game logs so I can see how both goalies are trending. i.e. how is rebounds above expected been over the last 10 games? Interesting stuff to explore….I might dig into that a bit.
The most important part of the article is that it all depends on how the team plays in front of you. The Kraken player sporadic in front Gru. The stat I would like to see and would tell more accurately is first period goals. Shot % is deceiving but when a goalie get behind early the goals against is higher. Gru has faults in both areas but Jones lets in some real easy goals. Win % is the most important stat.
All analytics aside, I judge goalies by team wins and Jones was one of the best NHL goalies in the league the first half of the season. You can overthink with the analytics. I do think Grubi deserves a few more starts along the way and u can tell in game interviews that he’s frustrated. Bottom line: the team needs to keep banking points down the stretch. Hak should keep going with the hotter hand.
Why is judging a goalie on wins event a thing? A good stats describes the performance of the player independent of other players, and wins has got to be the stat is that is most dependent on others.
Joe Mama doesn’t believe in Valentine’s Day. #incel
gonna rock your dad’s world tonite, bitch
Ok, that’s enough.
The breakdown I haven’t had time to figure out is the timing of the first goal in their starts. I think some of the snakebite that Gru may have had could be due to giving up an early goal in many starts and the team having to play from behind… The eye test is Gru has a higher ceiling, but traditionally seems like a slow starter.
Is there any historical precedent for goalies with demonstrably good numbers but losing records?
Also wondering to what degree this stuff becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Ie, goalies and/or players start believing a narrative that they never would have even thought of (or fixated on) to begin with.
I’m not sold on the causation angle or it being specific to the goalies, but here are some numbers.
For the season, excluding partial appearances without allowing a goal, Grubauer has allowed his first goal an average of 14:31 into his appearances while Jones has allowed his first goal 19:51 into his. Since the beginning of 2023 it’s 22:48 and 20:45, respectively.
In starting appearances, the Kraken have been leading/tied/trailing after the first goal allowed in 3/2/14 cases for Grubauer and 6/13/12 cases (plus 3 shutouts) for Jones.
Note that no attempt has been made to control for quality of opposition or any other confounding factors, but Grubauer does appear to have faced a more difficult schedule overall.