As I was writing up Pekka Rinne’s spotlight yesterday, and noticing the spike in his high-danger save-percentage, I got to thinking. And friends, you know what happens when I get to thinking. Because as I dug around, I saw that a lot of goalies were seeing a jump in their high-danger save percentages at even-strength. Was this a league-wide trend? Turns out it is.
I charted the high-dangers SV% of all starting goalies starting in the 2009-2009 season, and averaged them for a league-wide figure. Here’s what I got:
As you can see, from last season to this, there’s been an 11-point jump. It’s the biggest jump in any season, and by something of a margin. The only other one is the 2012 to 2013 jump of eight points, and some of that could be explained by the season-in-a-can and shooters out of rhythm and such. There was a seven-point jump in the year before that as well.
The NHL will point to a spike in scoring, as each team is averaging 2.93 goals per game this year versus 2.77 goals per game last year. Though that seems to have more to do with a spike in power play goals, which has jumped to 0.63 per game for team over last year’s 0.57. Though not all, as even-strength goals per team are slightly up from last year, 1.84 from 1.81 per game.
One reason that might be is that teams are creating more high-danger chances this year, and there’s been something of a spike. Over the past four years, the average number of high-danger chances every team creates per 60 has gone from 10.1, to 10.2, to 10.3, to 10.7 this year. So while goalies are saving more chances that are considered the best, they’re also facing more.
The reasons for this could be many, but I can’t help but think of expansion and years of a flattening cap. Basically, goalies are facing teams that only have two or three prime finishers instead of four or five that teams might have had back in the day. At the same time, you have worse players on each team, making more mistakes, with more defenders who can’t stem the tide before it gets to the crease. That’s just a theory.
What we have known for a while is that goalies get better every year. Overall save-percentages have climbed basically every year of your life. So maybe high-danger chances just come along with it. This seems to be a particular spike, though. Food for thought.