“Consistency” is both an oft-used and oft-misused word, when applied to hockey. Matt Fenwick at Battle of Alberta did a nice write-up on this about two years ago, and I agree with pretty much everything he said there; consistency is generally a euphemism for ‘disappointing.’
With goaltenders, it can be either a euphemism or statement of fact, because goalie performance does fluctuate, both from game to game and from season to season. Various reasons are suggested, but outside of a few specific cases (the unfortunate death of Jean-Sebastien Giguere’s father, for instance) it seems to happen almost at random. Consistency matters; sometimes it’s better to have a consistent goaltender without the peaks and valleys, while in other cases a team just has to hope their goalie gets hot at the right time.
Either way, consistency isn’t an easy thing to measure, but it is worth knowing. What I’ve done here is take every goaltender with 25 or more starts, take their average save percentage over those starts (treating each game as a unit), and calculated the standard deviation to see which goalies have been the most consistent in the league this season. The answers may surprise the reader; I know they surprised me.
1. Jimmy Howard.
- Save Percentage: 0.924
- Average Per-Game Save Percentage: 0.918
- Standard Deviation: 4.78
There’s no doubt that Howard has been one of the league’s best goaltending surprises this season; after years in the minor leagues he has blossomed into a starting goaltender at the age of 25. More surprising still is the fact that he’s left those AHL performances in the dust; in the minors Howard never exceeded a 0.916 SV% over four seasons, and this year he’s sitting pretty with a 0.924 SV% in the NHL. More than that, he’s also been the league’s most consistent goaltender, finishing two-thirds of his games within 10.0% of his average save percentage.
2. Craig Anderson.
- Save Percentage: 0.923
- Average Per-Game Save Percentage: 0.921
- Standard Deviation: 4.99
Speaking of late-blooming surprises, Colorado took a chance on Anderson when they gave him the starting job after years of excellent back-up work in Florida. It’s a decision that has paid off in spades, as Anderson has been brilliant time and again, and is the single biggest reason why the Avalanche have gone from cellar dwellers to playoff contenders.
3. Tuukka Rask
- Save Percentage: 0.926
- Average Per-Game Save Percentage: 0.923
- Standard Deviation: 5.02
While most young goaltenders are criticized for being inconsistent (either euphemistically or otherwise), Rask has been a constant in the Boston net, surpassing last year’s Vezina champion and turning one of the most secure starting jobs in the league into an open contest.
4. Carey Price
- Save Percentage: 0.911
- Average Per-Game Save Percentage: 0.901
- Standard Deviation: 5.33
Perhaps the most shocking name on this list, Price has gone from being the goalie of the future in Montreal to seeing his name pop up in trade rumours, thanks mostly to the brilliant play of backup goalie Jaroslav Halak. Price really hasn’t been bad, and as we can see he has consistency on his side, but Halak has been excellent and he’s also benefitted from more goal support, which has helped him to a far better record than 2005’s fifth overall draft pick.
5. Jonathan Quick
- Save Percentage: 0.908
- Average Per-Game Save Percentage: 0.904
- Standard Deviation: 5.38
Quick is the final entry on our list, narrowly edging out Vezina front-runner Ryan Miller. I’ve been impressed with Quick’s performance this season, although I don’t think he’s in the top tier of NHL goalies at this stage of his career. After strong performances in both college and the AHL he appears to have entrenched himself as the Kings’ starter for years to come, and possibly as the future net-minder for Team USA.