Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tomas Vokoun's 2010-2011 Goals Against

As I was going through Tomas Vokoun's goals allowed with the Florida Panthers last season, I realized there could be very good reasons for his bit of a "down year" last season. Not all fill me with optimism.

Note that every piece of data in this article is based on small sample size, and all the goalie analysis past "quality starts" starts with subjective goal classification.

To start off, Hockey Prospectus published Quality Start% rankings for 2010-2011 in April. Vokoun clocked in at 54.1% with 31 QS in 57 starts, 23rd, with his Panthers failing to win nearly half of those starts (NHL average is 25%).

I examined his goals against over two days. Here's my list of 137 goals against. On the second day I felt like I was seeing Florida give up 2 goal leads over and over again. With some better luck they would have made the playoffs. Tallon put that team into "rebuild" mode for little reason, I think. Anyway...

First, obviously, note the small sample size. Also, the highlights didn't always feature good replay angles, so it was a little difficult to be certain on screens, where the puck beat Vokoun, or whether it was deflected en route to the net.

I gave Vokoun the benefit of the doubt on rebound control, but not on screened shots, point shots, and bank shots. I was a little liberal in using "open net" (think Crosby's second goal in Caps-Pens Game 2 as the most liberal I'd be).

I was happy to see that on many, many occasions, Vokoun was hung out to dry. His defense frequently had poor coverage of the 2nd or 3rd attacker in the slot, resulting in 26 open nets, in addition to 75 relatively simple tap-ins and other assorted shots from the low slot and crease.

He allowed 29 "soft" and otherwise questionable goals in my mind, with another 10 goals that were, I think, his fault in some way or another (ranging from not making the initial save cleanly and having it bounce in to passing directly to an attacker).

To classify where shots beat Vokoun, I classified the goal into "high glove/blocker", "low glove/blocker", "ice glove/blocker", "five-hole" and "open net." The third category means "along the ice" and was frequently the case on rebounds, tap ins, and situations in which Vokoun spread-eagled to cover the bottom of the net.

Five-hole: 13 (9.5%)
High blocker: 25 (18.2%)
High glove: 27 (19.7%)
Low blocker: 17 (12.4%)
Low glove: 14 (10.2%)
Ice blocker: 6 (4.4%)
Ice glove: 9 (6.6%)
Open net: 26 (19.0%)

Compare to Semyon Varlamov (10-11), Michal Neuvirth (10-11), Cam Ward (10-11), Johan Hedberg (10-11), Martin Brodeur (09-10), Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak (through January 2010):

All numbers below the "GA" row are percentages of that total. Note that the author for Neuvirth admits he may have been overly harsh on Neuvirth with regards to soft and suspect goals. I left blanks where the writer did not make the relevant distinction (like "middle glove" for Price, Halak, Varlamov, Neuvirth, and Ward). Vokoun's goal totals do not add up because I did not include the easy "open net" goals.

Vokoun and Brodeur lead the pack here, easily. Even though I felt I erred on the side of harshness, he ties with Brodeur, who had a solid, albeit not elite, season in 2009-2010.

It looks like Vokoun is not easily beaten in the center of the net, but I'm not sure how those "open net" goals would have been classified by the other counters. At any rate, I don't see any particular weak spot here. He got beaten a bit more to the blocker side, which may be as a result of his blocker side being glove side for most other goalies (who'd be left-catching, not right-catching) and shooters shooting to that side out of habit. But I have no statistical basis for that assumption.

Off the rush: 18
Off a faceoff: 3
Rebounds: 26
Deflections*: 6

*Does not include other redirects which re-directed the puck less than ~45 degrees. Those were classified as "tap-ins".

Clear the crease. Especially of the puck. There were a few times the Panthers went to play the man instead, and the puck still ended up in their net. A couple of times they ran into Vokoun, resulting in an easy goal for the opponents, and another time (at least; probably more) the puck caromed in off his defenseman trying to make a pass intercept. That guy just has the worst luck.

In low slot/crease: 75
Scoring chance area*: 105
Non-scoring chance area: 22 (point shots, shots from the tops of the circles, shots from bad angles)

*A shot from the "home plate" scoring chance area, not necessarily a scoring chance.

I'm not sure how these compare to other teams, but at first glance the Panthers were terrible at clearing rebounds and keeping the puck away from Vokoun's crease, in general. The Capitals should do a better job, as they have much more size, experience, physicality, and, simply, talent on the blueline. All the Caps D are defensively competent, which means an easier job (supposedly) for Vokoun.

Bad rebounds: 9
Puck squeaked through body: 4
Didn't hold post: 5

I got the impression that Vokoun plays the initial shot aggressively, as many goalies do. However, on many of his goals against--I unfortunately did not keep exact track of this trend--he lost track of the puck after a pass or carom and could not recover quickly enough (like Michal Neuvirth on Eric Staal). On several occasions he also lost focus for a bit, though every goalie has lapses and allows softies from time to time.

All in all, to make this work the Capitals need to pay attention to the players without the puck. Vokoun got burned quite a bit by being aggressive on the puck carrier, only to have that player pass the puck to a poorly (if at all)-marked player for a prime scoring chance. I feel the Caps' new defensive zone system (to use EA terms, more like "protect net" than "puck side attack") should be able to protect against those dangerous passes. Vokoun can stop the first shot, but he needs help. I'm cautiously optimistic this will work. As usual, this will come down to the 18 players in front of him. It's just that this time, the team has the strongest netminding in ten years, and probably the strongest group of skaters since the late 90s.

Here's hoping this is the year.


  1. I think you've made an outstanding case here for abrogating his contract. He is clearly an untrustworthy goaltender. We should swap for Theodore and sent Vokoun back to Florida. ASAP.

  2. Seriously??? Vokoun is a MUCH better goalie than Theodore. He's managed to be one of the leagues best goalies despite playing for such a bad team in FLA, and knowing they didn't have a chance at making playoffs. He will be extremely motivated by finally playing on a contending team, and will show that he didn't take such a drastic paycut for nothing.