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Why Andrew Raycroft Is Now In Austin

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We've seen some interesting goaltending this season of Stars hockey. We've seen Kari Lehtonen play at a very high level thanks to a high even strength save percentage. We've seen Andrew Raycroft flame out spectacularly with Lehtonen hurt, and Richard Bachman take his roster spot with a run of very good play in his first meaningful stint with the big club. Goalie play is generally random from year to year thanks to fluctuating shooting and save percentages (collectively referred to as PDO, and we will definitely be diving into PDO at some point).

One important aspect of goaltending that we can look at relatively easy is what level of competition a particular goalie is facing on a routine basis. The Stars are counting on Lehtonen to be a top tier level goalie. With that honor comes the expectation that he will face the top competition the league has to offer since he is clearly the top goalie on the roster. I wanted to see if that was actually the case. The three goalies have generated such wildly different reactions this season that I became interested in seeing if any of that has to do with the opponent quality they usually face.

The goal of this exercise is to see how Glen Gulutzan uses his goalies since coaches are the ones who decide when a particular goalie is starting. So what I've done is compiled a few simple stats to show the average level of competition each goalie is facing. I've compiled the average winning percentage, goal differential, and Fenwick percentage of all the Stars goalies. I then averaged those out over the total number of starts each player has. Follow the jump to see the results.

The chart below has the three goalies shown with four columns for the stats in question. The first is starts. I only counted games each player started. All games are included, but relief appearances don't count since we're looking strictly for tactical decisions Gulutzan has made. I should point out that some of the games are back to back which limits things tactically to a degree, and the injury to Lehtonen definitely makes an impact too.

The actual stats are opponent's winning percentage for the season, opponent's goal differential for the season, and opponent's Fenwick percentage. I then divided each by the total number of starts each goalie has. The numbers surprised me on one hand, but on the other they didn't.

***For those unfamiliar with Fenwick percentage, don't worry. Fenwick is the total of all goals scored, all saves a goalie made, and all missed shots directed towards the net. Basically, picture Lehtonen in net against Anaheim. If Anaheim scores 0 goals, takes 25 shots on net, and they miss the net 10 times. They would have a team Fenwick of 35. Simple, right? Fenwick percentage is just a comparison of their Fenwick compared to the Fenwick of their opponent. If the Stars Fenwick on that hypothetical night was also 35 both teams would have Fenwick %'s of 50. If a team has a Fenwick % of greater than 50% they're generating more offense than their opposition. So, in the table below the higher the Fenwick % against means the goalie is seeing progressively more offense on average per game.

Name Starts Winning % Goal Differential Fenwick%
Kari Lehtonen 30 47% -4.53 50.18
Andrew Raycroft 8 54.00% +10.67 52.14
Richard Bachman 10 53.00% +6.4 50.3

Lehtonen has faced much easier competition in 2011/12 than his battery mates. He usually faces teams that play under .500, have a goal differential for the season of -5, and an even Fenwick%. He's basically against Phoenix or Montreal in every start. This isn't to say that he hasn't played well, but he isn't exactly dominating the Penguins every time out.

His backups have a much different story. Raycroft and Bachman are, respectively, facing 54% and 53% winning percentage clubs. Raycroft's average opponent has a 52% Fenwick % to go with a +11 goal differential. Unlike Lehtonen, poor Razor got a workout every time out. The two teams that straddle a 52% Fenwick % for the season are the Blackhawks and Sharks. The goal differential of the average Raycroft opponent is also pretty close to the Blackhawks. Bachman's numbers are similar, but not nearly as extreme thanks to an opponent's Fenwick % closer to Lehtonen's.

Player GAA SV% ES Sv% PK Sv%
Kari Lehtonen 2.45 0.919 0.926 0.877
Richard Bachman 2.5 0.917 0.937 0.843
Andrew Raycroft 3.52 0.898 0.897 0.889

After seeing the level of competition the Stars goalies have faced, the season stats of the three goalies shouldn't be too surprising. Yes, Raycroft was terrible. Anyone that watched what he did could tell that he shouldn't have been on the ice, and his .898 save percentage drives the point home even further. He was in a no win situation though.

The pleasant surprise from this exercise is Bachman. Across the board his numbers are similar to Lehtonen, and he's faced significantly higher competition on average. When he debuted he was solid. He would make all of the routine saves, but the above average NHL starting goalie save eluded him. His last few starts made it seem as if he is settling in at the NHL level, and these numbers seem to back that conclusion up. It's still very early and Bachman has played one third as many games as Lehtonen so things will definitely change as the season progresses, but I think they've found themselves a player in Bachman.

The one issue that bugs me about this is the low level of competition Lehtonen has faced. The Stars are calling him a number one goalie, and there will come a time in the not too distant future when he is going to be expecting to get paid like a number one goalie. He needs to be playing against the top competition possible night in and night out to generate as much value as possible for the Stars. A good deal of the noise in those numbers might be coming from the time he was out with the back injury, but when I read those numbers I immediately thought about the ice time distribution issues. The fourth line is sheltered, but the top three lines generally appear to roll at all times no matter the situation, the zone, or the matchup. Both issues are tactical, and (fairly or unfairly) I couldn't help but wonder if they're related.