Earlier today, I looked at the five most consistent goalies in the league. The group below is the mirror image of those first five, the least consistent goaltenders in the NHL. It’s a varied bunch, featuring goalies old and young, European and North American. The common factor is that none of the five goalies have been especially good this season; their performances range from poor to middling. And unlike the top list, which featured some surprises, this group is pretty much as expected.

1. Cristobal Huet.

  • Save Percentage: 0.898
  • Average Per-Game Save Percentage: 0.880
  • Standard Deviation: 10.63

Like I said, this wasn’t a surprise. I really expected Huet to bounce back after a subpar 2008-09, but he’s done the opposite, becoming the heel to Chicago’s Achilles. The Blackhawks had turned to the French-born goaltender after Stanley Cup winner Nikolai Khabibulin stunk for three out of four seasons, but the experience has been basically the same: spending lots of money for poor results. At this point, I doubt it would surprise anyone if Antti Niemi (also struggling of late, with six poor performances in his last seven games) started in net for the playoffs.

2. Pekka Rinne.

  • Save Percentage: 0.901
  • Average Per-Game Save Percentage: 0.884
  • Standard Deviation: 10.16

Ever since they trade Tomas Vokoun, the Predators have followed a pattern with their goaltenders: a brilliant performance for one season, followed by a fall from grace which creates an opportunity for the next guy. It happened with Chris Mason, who was replaced by Dan Ellis. Then it happened to Dan Ellis, who was replaced by Rinne. Now Rinne’s created all sorts of room for Ellis to re-take the job. He’s alternated between good and bad performances all season, and unfortunately he simply hasn’t been all that good overall.

3. Steve Mason

  • Save Percentage: 0.899
  • Average Per-Game Save Percentage: 0.884
  • Standard Deviation: 10.08

Last season, Steve Mason won the Calder Trophy. In so doing he established himself as not only the goalie of the future in Columbus but also the goalie of the here and now; the Blue Jackets sent away Pascal Leclaire and Mason was even a dark horse contender for a spot on the Canadian Olympic team. This year has been an unmitigated disaster; Mason’s gone from brilliant to brutal and now finds himself in a tandem situation with slightly less disappointing journeyman Mathieu Garon.

4. Jose Theodore

  • Save Percentage: 0.910
  • Average Per-Game Save Percentage: 0.895
  • Standard Deviation: 9.91

There are parallels between Washington and Chicago: both excellent teams with perceived weaknesses in net. Injuries have pushed Jose Theodore into a prominent role with the team, and the 2002 Hart Trophy winner has been, well, adequate. At least in the big picture; over the season he’s had mini-stretches. He’s coming off his first shutout of the season, the third in a string of three strong performances, which in turn come on the heels of three weak performances. It’s unclear which goalie will show up in the post-season, and the Capitals will probably opt for Semyon Varlamov instead.

5. Jonas Gustavsson

  • Save Percentage: 0.899
  • Average Per-Game Save Percentage: 0.886
  • Standard Deviation: 9.87

Between heart trouble, the struggles of the team in front of him, and playing in his first North American season, it would perhaps be surprising if Gustavsson were consistent. He narrowly edged out former Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala for the final spot on this list. Inconsistency is a double-edged sword for Gustavsson; on the one hand the team would undoubtedly prefer a more even keel, but at the same time those occasional flashes of brilliance might be glimpses of what Gustavsson will someday become.

Comments (14)

  1. For Gustavsson, Rinne, and Mason I think its more a matter of age then ability that has them on this list, I imagine all 3 will be solid goalies in the future.

  2. Toskala wouldn’t be consistently bad??

  3. VC: He had a shutout and a couple of other good games.

  4. Since I’m sure you have all of the data still, it would be interesting to provide a chart by age, i.e. is the average 23 y/o goalie more consistent or inconsistent than the average 33 y/o goalie. I doubt your sample would be big enough to go year by year but maybe something like 20-23, 24-26, 26-29, 30-33, 33-36 and 37+ would work (you could always add more seasons if you’re up for doing a bunch more work!). I guess there would still be quite a lot of noise with only one season but it may provide something interesting.

  5. Scott: I’ll be posting the full chart tomorrow, but I think you’re right about sample size being an issue. I’m very curious if consistency varies with age (at a guess, I’d suggest it follows roughly the same curve as goaltender ability) but it will definitely require multiple seasons.

  6. well i spoke too soon toskala does have a list. but pascal leclaire belongs here more, maybe marty turco too.

  7. To me Turco and Leclaire belong here alot more the Gustavsson mainly because it is his first year and its been filled will health issue’s I am not saying he is a great goalie or bad he just hasnt had any stretches either way. Toskala would be another on the list instead of a Steve Mason I mean after all he is young. And if he is on the list where is Price? Emery could be on there aswell although injuries have hurt him more then anything. Mike Smith and Nittamaki could both be top contenders aswell.

  8. @jeffb: Leclaire and Turco were both below average, but neither matched the numbers of these five.

  9. Rsmotors:

    Price has been remarkably consistent, from game to game. As for Mason and Gustavsson, it may well be part of being young but that doesn’t change the fact that they have been wildly inconsistent this year.

  10. The Hawks have got to be deeply concerned about their goaltenders. In the case of teams like the Sens, Caps and Flyers they at least have a good secondary option in Elliot, Varlamov and Leighton to carry the load although in Leighton’s case he is the starter. And I’m not to worried about the Sens although Leclaire has to be concerned right now unless he really picks his game up he’ll be passed by Elliot who will likely get passed by Lehner eventually. And if he fails in Ottawa he’s likely done as a starter in the NHL. But maybe the Leafs game was the turn around who knows.

  11. I’m curious to see if Leighton will be on this list by season’s end if he gets the bulk of the starts for Philly from here on out. Like you said though, JW, not a lot of surprises on this list. Maybe the biggest surprise is that Rinne has parlayed this inconsistent season into a big two year contract extension. I’d be interested to see the full chart too, just to see if it confirms or denies some impressions I have about the consistency of some goalies like Nabokov, Brodeur, Kiprusoff and Bryzgalov this season. It’s also too bad Ty Conklin hasn’t made enough starts to qualify for the list; a quick glance at his game-by-game numbers suggests he’s been remarkably consistent, something that’s not always easy to do as a backup.

  12. I wonder whether Theodore’s inconsistency this year extends to prior seasons. I just read something about him losing a child before the season started, but honestly I tend to follow the WC and couldn’t rattle off much about his performance last year besides the fact he got benched for Varlamov in the playoffs.

  13. [...] NHL Goalies? Posted by Jonathan WillisYesterday we looked at the league’s most consistent and most inconsistent goalies, picking at the extremes of an oft-discussed but rarely looked at issue. With those players [...]

  14. Although you all make strong arguments I think Marty Turco should also be on that list. He is one of 3 goalies who gives up the weakest goals in the league (Goalie World, issue 76, 2010). I don’t think Dallas will have a chance if he continues is poor play. In my blog http://www.goaliereview.com I analyse one of these week goals. Turco shows poor positional play, poor save choice and his reflexes are not what they used to be. It saddens me to see a goalie who cannot evolve with the game because he was one of the great…

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