Goaltenders are like football quarterbacks and baseball pitchers in that they play their sports’ position that’s judged by the dubious ‘wins’ and ‘losses’ statistics.

Unlike football quarterbacks and baseball pitchers, goaltenders aren’t tasked with the role of putting the play in motion. A pitcher can control the flow of a game—oftentimes an effective pitcher will speed up and slow down his rhythm to get in batter’s heads, like a veteran golfer in a match game. A quarterback is limited by the play clock, but otherwise snaps the ball, and usually has the power to change the play at the line of scrimmage.

Consider Jonathan Quick. Nothing has gone right for Quick this season. He’s been bad, surely we can all admit that much. Perhaps the Los Angeles Kings are giving up some quality shots in front of him, but no goaltender should make it through 10 games after coming into a year with such high expectations. Many pundits picked Quick for the Vezina Trophy. Many more pundits picked the Los Angeles Kings to be the top team in the Western Conference. With more than a quarter of the season done, the Kings, after a 3-2 loss to Chicago on Sunday, sit four points out of a playoff spot.

Wait, four points is not all that much, and the Kings still have games in hand over the teams they’re trying to catch up to. Rumours of their demise have been greatly exaggerated, and Quick, well…

Of course, Quick did stop 34 of 37 on Sunday for his fifth “quality start” on the season.

Again, Quick doesn’t have the ability to control the game on his own. We’ve seen goaltenders win and lose games all by their lonesome, but when a goaltender like Quick is struggling, particularly on a very good team that doesn’t give up a tonne of shots, it gives the man less opportunity to redeem himself and find that form from last season’s playoffs.

I bring up the word “regression” a lot, and that’s because particularly at a position like goaltender, where a player isn’t in control of the game, can have so many goals against happen as a result of bad bounces, things are never as good as they seem, nor as bad as they seem.

Blogs are a visual medium, so I’ve taken the liberty to paste out a chart I put together of Quick’s career to date (via Hockey Reference). The blue line is Quick’s career save percentage, and the red line is Quick’s save percentage in his last ten games.

The pattern is distinct: the blue line has slowly progressed throughout Quick’s career, as he’s gotten more experienced and faced more pucks, and the red line bounces up and down, with slightly higher peaks and slightly higher valleys than previous.

In January of 2011, Quick had hit what was his lowest point in his career to date. He had gone just 2-7, with a save percentage of .869 and a goals against average of 3.29. In his next ten appearances, he was 8-1-1 with a .933 save percentage and a 1.84 goals against average. The second number is the Quick we’re used to from playoffs past. Of course, in the ten games *after* that he averaged out again.

Basically, goaltender numbers are a fast moving target around a common mean. Every goaltender’s mean is different, obviously. Quick’s .917 save percentage (playoffs included) is much better than a similarly-aged Kari Lehtonen. Or Cam Ward.

That said, the Kings were probably better off not signing Quick to a ten year deal while Quick was standing at one of the highest peaks of his career. I don’t know what they were looking for, but Quick isn’t as good as the goaltender who had a .946 save percentage in the 2012 playoffs. No goaltender is. They can play that well and have a very good streak, but it’s madness to expect that kind of consistent output from a goaltender every season.

Quick, and the Kings, will be all right.

Comments (9)

  1. NEEDS TO WANT IT MORE #analysis

  2. Great article – especially liked the save % graph. Showing the 10-game moving average against his career trend really puts it into perspective. Where did you find that data? I’d be curious to see some other goaltenders’ charts.

  3. “Tonne” hahahahahahaha… Now what do you make of Victor Fasth?

  4. Victor Fasth is high on cloud number 9. Will eventually come down and be just better than average.

  5. I disagree. Quick had a fantastic season last year and he carried it over into an even better playoffs but he had back surgery in the offseason and the Kings are fighting though some injuries to their blue-line. The result is there are D-men for the Kings who are not as familiar with their system as they should be and they are making mistakes, allowing better scoring chances for the opposition. Add to that the fact that Quick himself has allowed more than a couple of soft goals this season and I would say that his numbers aren’t going to significantly improve in the near future.

    • The games have been tracked for scoring chances and the Kings’ D, while less experienced on the whole, isn’t giving up more quality chances than last year at all.

  6. ‘Perhaps the Los Angeles Kings are giving up some quality shots in front of him…”

    No, it’s not even that. The team is still defensive-minded, and giving up few scoring chances.

    He was rusty, and not getting many bounces either.

  7. Take it from someone who actually played goaltender in junior and the OUA…the odds of Quick continuing the run he’s been on are slim. The guy sells out to cover the bottom half of the net, which means if his quickness and lateral movement are a little off he will get lit up big time. If he’s a split second late getting across the ice then he can’t move out and challenge shooters fast enough and the they will have the top half of the net to fire at all night. His deficiencies are actually being hidden in the Kings defensive system right now. On an average defensive team he’d look brutal. Don’t listen to this clown writing…if you don’t have Quick then leave him alone and if you do…pray for two decent starts in a row and sell sell sell. Thanks for the rest of the comments losers….it’s always great to hear from so many tools who little about actual hockey

  8. lol people saying quick is a bad goalie , his career sample size of saves is more then then large enough to accurately predict quick’s abilities. 7580 shots and 7000 saves can hardley be scoffed at, regardless of team defensive style/ability. quick has averaged 29 shots against per game , hardly yeoman’s work either. I’m not a quick fan or an LA fan, and he is not on my fantasy team but some of whats been said is more then stupid and I felt compelled to comment. just remember according to pro goalie brett_35 quicks’s “run” (of 5 years) is a fluke and he should suck any year with brutal consistently.

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