Behind the Numbers: 2010-11
Edition – Part 2
In the first installment of Behind the Numbers, we looked at how the Blues really turned things around after the All-Star Break and how they played much better in front of their fans at the Scottrade Center. This time we look into Jaroslav Halak, how the Blues faired on face-offs, and what an early lead or early hole meant to the team’s chances of winning.
Yes, Jaroslav Halak deserves a section completely of his own. Considering the hype and expectations coming into the season, Halak’s year deserves a full breakdown. We are just one year into a four-year contract with Halak, but a lot of information should be taken away from the season that just ended. The short version: Halak was definitely not as good as expected and definitely not as horrible as some people claim he was. He was simply great at times and quite mediocre at others.
Home (32 games)
.923 save percentage
Road (25 games)
.894 save percentage
You’d expect a player to perform better in front of his home crowd, but what you wouldn’t expect is a goaltender to have nearly a full goal differential in his GAA between starts at home and starts on the road – especially a player who just recently bricked Pittsburgh and Washington under immense high pressure situations in the playoffs.
The stat that really tells the tale of the tape for me is the split between how Halak performed in wins compared to how he performed in losses.
In Wins (27)
.954 save percentage
In Losses (30)
.869 save percentage
Now, you might be thinking that of course Halak is better in games he won – that’s why he won them. You’d be correct. However, it is the manner in which Halak won and lost his contests that really drives the point home.
In his victories, Halak was brilliant. You really couldn’t ask for much better. He averaged just barely over a goal per victory and had a save percentage to die for. In his defeats, he was really poor. He didn’t just let in goals, he let in numerous goals, including a stretch where he let in a minimum of four in each contest he started. It was either boom or bust in 2010-11 – no middle ground, no consistency.
Unfortunately, these splits are what I was concerned about when I heard the Blues were bringing him in. Halak was a monster in the postseason, but the sample size was still quite small. His career numbers during the course of a regular season were pretty much all over the place. He can be lights out at times and lackadaisical at others. Are these really the qualities of a reliable, number one goaltender that can be a game changer?
Perhaps the Blues thought they could harness the potential he shows in his victories and expand it over a larger sample size. If that was the case, it missed the mark in 2010-11.
Now, I don’t think Halak was awful – I think he was very average. Rarely did he steal games when the team needed him to. Rarely did he stand tall and take charge as a netminder you could rely on.
He did improve after the All-Star break, but his collective work, like the team in front of him, was mostly one we’d like to think could improve by tremendous amounts next season.
Also, it’s worth pointing out that Halak should start every game for the Blues on Thursday nights. On Thursdays he rattled off a 8-1-2 record in 12 starts with a 1.72 GAA.
It’s an aspect of the game that can easily be overlooked, but one that plays a much larger role than the casual fan realizes. Winning or losing a face-off can be the difference between dictating the play or letting the opponent dictate the play to you.
Overall the Blues ended the year with a 47.3% success rate in the circle, a total that ranked them 28th in the NHL.
The range between the top club in face-offs, Vancouver at 54.9%, and the bottom, Edmonton at 44.2%, is a margin of roughly just 10%. It may not seem very significant, but when you think about just how many face-offs there are in a given game and how large a role they can play in the flow of the game, each percentage point becomes vital.
Andy McDonald performed well in the circle, winning 59.3% of all the face-offs he took this season. Vladimir Sobotka deserves recognition as well as he secured 53.1% of his draws.
After that, the majority of the roster that saw any amount of time in the face-off circle struggled. Patrik Berglund (46.2%), David Backes (44.5%) and T.J. Oshie (44.0%) are three skaters that need to raise their winning percentage closer, if not over, the 50% barrier.
Consider this an area that needs improvement in 2011-12.
Strong Start, Slow Finishes
View a large sample of games from this season and you’ll quickly notice the Blues often looked like a different set of players from one period to the next. We saw many leads slip away as well as many late comebacks after falling flat in the first half of the game.
Take the Blues winning percentage when they led through one period: 56.7%. This stat sums up all the games the Blues jumped out of the gate firing just to see their lead fade away as they became sluggish in the second and third. Their winning percentage of 56.7% ranks 29th in the NHL, just barely ahead of the Atlanta Thrashers.
Scoring First vs. Trailing First
The Blues are no strangers to creating some statistics that might leave you scratching your head.
When scoring first, the Blues went on to win those games just 58.7% of the time – good for 27th in the league.
On the flip side the Blues seemed to perform much better when they found themselves in an early hole. When allowing the first goal, the Blues came back to win 30.6% of the time, a total that ranked 18th in the NHL.