The Dallas Stars have been getting very efficient goaltending this season. (Imagine hearing that in 2014-16. But nonetheless.) Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin have been putting up excellent goaltending numbers and they are a big reason why the Stars are currently sitting third in the Central Division. The Dallas defense has helped the goaltenders in suppressing high danger chances, which is currently sixth in the league. However, that isn’t to completely diminish the fact that the Stars are 17th in both scoring chances against and shots against, so the Dallas netminders have certainly had to earn their minutes.
There are a few things I wanted to look at with this tandem. First, I wanted to see how rare this was, to have two goaltenders in the top 10 in save percentage. Then I wanted to follow up to see how teams with this caliber of goaltending usually fair in both the playoffs and in the regular season.
Since the 2007-08 season, there have only been seven teams who have had both their starting and backup netminder in the top 10 of save percentage. They are listed below:
- 2007-08 Anaheim Ducks (102 points) — First Round
- 2007-08 Pittsburgh Penguins (102 points) — Stanley Cup Finalists
- 2010-11 Vancouver Canucks (117 points) — Stanley Cup Finalists
- 2011-12 St. Louis Blues (109 points) — Second Round
- 2013-14 Boston Bruins (117 points) — Second Round
- 2014-15 Ottawa Senators (99 points) — First Round
- 2016-17 Washington Capitals (118 points) — Second Round
Khudobin is currently ranked third in the league with a .927 save percentage, and Bishop is ranked fifth with a .924. It will be only the third time in 11 years that a team has had two goalies in the top five (Anaheim in 2007 and Vancouver in 2010). Not only have the teams listed above ended the season with great points in the standings, but they historically have done quite well in the postseason. Five of the seven have either made the second round of the playoffs or competed in the Stanley Cup Final.
The average standings points of the teams listed above are 109, with a max of 118 and a low of 99. The Stars are currently projected to have around 89-91 points this season. That’s just a cool 20 standings points below the average. Since 2007, there’s never been a worse team who has had as elite goaltending as the Dallas Stars which, again, goes to show how badly the Stars need more scoring.
I personally don’t like looking at GAA as a goalie stat, as I believe it’s more of a team stat. However, I do think there is weight in not only save percentage, but some more advanced metrics such as “goals saved above expectation.” We’ve already discussed how great the Stars’ netminders rank based on save percentage, but here’s a look at how they fair in shots they save against expected goals. Below is a chart made by Sean Tierney (@chartinghockey) with data from www.evolving-hockey.com:
From the image above, you’ll see Bishop and Khudobin both at the top of the league in the GSAx metric, which just furthers solidifies their play in net. Both goalies do a great job at saving goals that “were expected” to go in. A fun note is that Khudobin has played so well and so often that in some metrics he isn’t even considered a backup, he just shows up in some of the starting goalie categories.
Another thing you may notice in the above chart is that the New York Islanders also have an elite goalie duo in Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss, which puts them in a similar boat as the Stars. I mean, except for the fact that they are first in the Metro and are expected to have a 100-point season (even without John Tavares), but hey, the Stars traded for Andrew Cogliano once, so baby steps right?
The Stars’ goaltenders are really good. They’re playing at an elite level right now and continue to give the Stars success every night. With the tandem playing this well and a defense in front of them that are suppressing a majority of high-end chances, the back half of this team can 100 percent be considered a Cup contending tandem. The trade deadline is quickly approaching and with it comes offensive help that will become available.
Are the Stars an Artemi Panarin or a Mark Stone away from making a run with these goalies in net? Do they need more than just one player to come in and help the Stars’ problem of generating offense? That can all be debated. However, one thing that cannot be debated is this — the Stars need to win and they have the netminders to do it. They need a playoff berth and they need to have a competitive postseason. They have a new coach, a new 19-year-old franchise defenseman, and the 2020 Winter Classic. All reasons that the Stars need to turn the page on the past and start fresh. With all of the “culture of mediocrity” talk that’s occurred in the last two months, it’s time to flip the script and create a winning-mentality for hockey in Dallas. I’m sure with a lot of Stars fans when I say “go for it.” Make the trades necessary to compliment this elite goaltending tandem they have this year and make a splash. Because once they’re in the playoffs and utilizing that hot goaltending into that first round? Anything can happen.