Despite the idea that “chemistry” or being “a little too uptight” are major contributors to the struggles of the Colorado Avalanche (who are suddenly within two points of a lottery slot after making the playoffs last season) the single biggest reason the Avalanche have slid back into irrelevance is a regression in shooting and save percentage, as Kent Wilson pointed out earlier this week.
And while there are plenty of players who aren’t posting career-high shooting percentages this season, the individuals inhabiting the Colorado net are the ones having the most impact on that percentage regression.
The performance collapse of backup goaltender Peter Budaj is utterly unsurprising. Pressed into fuller duty as a result of Craig Anderson’s injuries (more on him in a moment), Budaj has been found lacking; his 0.895 save percentage ranks him 37th out of the 42 goaltenders to play more than 20 games this season.
In six seasons, including this one, Budaj has a career save percentage of 0.902. In five of those six seasons, his save percentage has varied between 0.895 and 0.905. The lone exception to this pattern of indifferent play are his results from 2009-10, where Budaj put up an 0.917 SV% in 15 games. This is, based on the bulk of Budaj’s career, precisely where his skill level lies.
Craig Anderson’s struggles are more surprising. Injuries to his knee and groin have limited his playing time, as has a recent personal leave, and perhaps they have affected his play when healthy too; Anderson’s 0.897 SV% is scarcely better than Budaj’s. Yet, based on more than 200 games of work – not just his 0.917 SV% last year – we know Anderson to be a competent goaltender; his 0.911 career save percentage is that of an average starter.
How has the combined fall-off impacted the team? The chart below shows the cost, in goals against. 2009-10 numbers are based on 2010-11 shots against, but with 2009-10 save percentage.
Goaltending alone has cost the Avalanche 37 goals so far this season as compared to last year. As it stands, the team presently has a goal differential of minus-25; a 37-goal difference would switch that goal differential to plus-12. Using the rule of thumb that six goals against is roughly equivalent to a win, that’s the difference between fifth and 14th in the Conference.