Thursday, March 25, 2010

If Price could buy a win, he probably would

Carey Price lost again last night. At the end of the day, and especially at this time of year, that's all that matters. But in what appears to be a recurring nightmare for Price, he lost another game he clearly deserved to win.

Or at least it appears to be a recurring nightmare to me, but I'm constantly reminded that it's better not to base your opinions on appearances. Facts always work better.

The most striking fact about Price when compared to Jaroslav Halak is the amount of goal support he gets. The disparity, however, is very difficult to explain. Some say the Habs work harder for Halak because they want to reward the hard work he puts in every day in practice. I suppose it's a plausible theory. Others take it even further to say that guys simply don't give it everything they have when Price is in net, to punish him for his supposed laziness in practice. This, of course, is sheer and utter lunacy.

The truth might lie somewhere in between, or maybe it has nothing to do with any of that. I think at this point the quality of opposition argument is more or less moot, since both Price and Halak have played some formidable teams this season.

Whatever the reason, the numbers are strikingly different for the two goaltenders this season. In Price's 38 starts (counting the comeback win in Anaheim), the Canadiens have scored 88 goals. In Halak's 36 starts (not counting the Anaheim game), that number jumps to 107 goals. Price gets an average goal support of 2.32 per game, while Halak receives 2.97 goals per game.

That is a very wide gap. To put it in perspective, the Canadiens currently sit 23rd in the NHL at 2.58 goals per game. If Price had started every game, Montreal would be dead last in the league in goals per game, behind Boston at 2.38. If Halak had started every game the Habs would be sixth in the NHL, just behind the Penguins at 2.99.

Meanwhile, Price's goals against average in his starts (not counting relief appearances) is 2.76, while Halak's is 2.51. That means Price allows, on average, 0.44 more goals than the Canadiens score for him, while Halak allows 0.46 fewer goals than he receives in support. But if you reversed their goal support, I think you'd also see a significant change in their wins and losses. 

It's difficult to quantify (perhaps someone with far better math skills than I could try it), but I would imagine Halak's won-loss record would take a significant hit if he were suddenly allowing 0.19 more goals per game than the Canadiens were scoring. Meanwhile, if Price were allowing 0.23 fewer goals than he got in support, I would think his numbers would change as well.

What should be noted, however, is that Halak's goals against numbers are still better even though both Price (31.7) and Halak (31.9) see about the same number of shots per start. But even that may be the result of better goal support, because a team that is trailing in a game will take more chances, which in turn lead to more quality scoring opportunities for the other team.

I don't know what it is, but watching Price storm off the ice last night and later throw his teammates under the bus a bit after the game showed that his frustration with this disparity is beginning to seriously weigh on him. I'd be annoyed as well if I hadn't played in over two weeks, came up with a 40-save masterpiece and still lost.

In fact, that's happened more often than normal for Price, who only has a 10-6-3 record when making at least 30 saves in a game. Halak's record in that situation? 11-2-2. Or how about this? When Price has an in-game save percentage of at least .920, his record is 9-5-2. Halak's is 16-3-2.

That's a lot of numbers, but all they serve to do is confuse me further as to why this is the situation. At the same time, however, the "why" is of little importance right now. Maybe it's just a massive, tragic coincidence. Maybe the team really does play better in front of Halak. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

But one thing that is no longer in doubt after last night's team meltdown in the final two minutes of regulation is that Price, for whatever reason, is not winning games through little fault of his own. Which is why Jacques Martin's decision to go with Halak tonight against the Panthers is a sound one, one that should probably be repeated another seven times this season and further into the playoffs.

It's a shame for Price and probably unfair that he be punished for something that simply can't be explained, but there's no longer any time left for fairness this season. 


MathMan said...

In the goalie analysis for December on, one thing that really struck me was that not only was Halak getting Chicago-level levels of goal support in that month and Price was getting worse-than-worst-in-NHL levels... but the difference was almost entirely on the power play. With Price the power play clicked for less than 5%... with Halak the number was ungodly high, over 40% IIRC.

I'd call that a fluke, unless you think the players were worried about shorthanded goals.

Yet somehow Price still gets blamed. Frankly, if the difference in goaltenders (with relatively small difference in real goaltending ability) causes your players to alter their game that much, you have a big, big problem. And it's not a goaltender problem.

Olivier said...

Off the top of my head, I'd look at the variance of goal support along home/road splits. The habs are a slightly above average team at ES at home (Jacques is pretty good with the last change) and pretty crappy on the road.

If Price gets, say, 1000 more minutes on the road, well there is a very good chance he gets a raw deal.

Haven't looked at thos numbers, but I have them somewhere...

Anonymous said...

It's more likely they are showing their lack of confidence that he will give up a soft goal on them after all their hard work in front of Price.

Anvilcloud said...

It's pretty weird, and I felt bad for Price last night. But y'know if we fans are almost waiting for the other shoe to drop maybe the team is on edge too. Throw away the first 57 minutes, and I have a feeling that Halak would have found a way to win that game. It's also possible that he would have let in a goal before that though, so ... I'm confused.

Leila said...

I think Price is on a learning curve and these losing experiences are part of that. He's learning what it's like to play on a team. He's discovering that he is not the team but just a part of it.
There is a long term process involved in keeping the #1 goalie position and I think Price tried rushing to the front a bit and has lost his footing. This rush was promoted unfairly by management and they're also paying for it. Price will have to start from the bottom and I truly believe he will be the better goalie for it. It's a humbling experience and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

MathMan said...

42 shots, 40 saves, and picked the second star by the Buffalo media. I don't think Price is the guy to blame for that loss, whether you think Halak would have made one more save in the final two minutes or not.

Biggest culprit last night was identified correctly by Arpon, IMHO.

TK said...

Last night was my fault folks. I tested the cosmic order by saying aloud, to no one in particular, that it would be great if "Price got the shutou!" I stopped myself before i let that final syllable leave my mouth, but I am afraid that it was too late. Not 30 seconds later O'Byrne took a late penalty, and well, you know the rest.

Sorry folks, sorry Carey. Careless mistake on my part.

Anonymous said...

We can't fantasize about what would have been if Halak was in last night's game, because he wasn't. Period. Price played an amazing game, we all agree with that. What I don't agree with is the notion (I hear it here and have heard it elsewhere) that the players will play better for a certain goalie than another. What kind of crap is that? So if they don't like the goalie for the night they put up their feet and kick back? That's plain lunacy.

Anonymous said...

No TK, you're not to blame. It was me. I heard the announcer say 3 minutes and 31 seconds as O'Byrne went for his time out and then said "that's plenty of time to score" (it's American TV). I brought me back a moment to our victorious Anaheim game when we were in the same predicament and before I could return from reminiscing to reality, Buffalo let it rip past Price. I still feel guilty.

Anonymous said...

n ones blaming price for last night's loss but fact is in many games when halak was in nets and habs under fire as they led by a goal late halak held the fort, price has not. his goals against average is far worse. his record is terrible on wins or losses especially compared to when halak played. price's overtime and shootout record is worse as well. his saves percentage is worse. these are the only meaningful stats in this debate. FACT is you only need one goalie on the ice. scotty bowman made a comment habs shouldn't trade price. BUT when he had 2 great young goalies dryden and esposito, pollock traded esposito away. how'd that work out for the habs?

Anonymous said...

Playing for your favourite goalie is complete nonsense- the 2nd buffalo goal was a bounce that Price could not get control of just bad lady luck - you all know what happens in the goal mouth scramble small piece of ice and the guy with the pads and catcher is one person (the goalie), the team played well the rest of the night take a stupid penalty and a suprised Habs team when Buffalo woke up in the dying minutes- Very painfull to all Fans,players and Price supporters - but it was no one fault but many errors like the Titanic sinking(yikes did I say that) If Price played tonight he would probably stand on his head and Win ,Who really knows? Take the point and don't be ashamed and run with it HABS TEAM at the very least earned it!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
the 2nd buffalo goal was a bounce that Price could not get control of just bad lady luck -

Yes, Price has been very unlucky now for THREE YEARS HERE!

HoustonHab said...

Please tell me what Cary Price has done to deserve the repeat chances that he gets? For the life of me I do not under stand it.

Hype and achievements in lesser leagues can only get you so far.

On the same note please explain why Halak gets denied the credit he deserves? This will be the 3rd time in 4 years that Halak as played a huge part in putting the Habs on the door steps of play-offs.

Halak has one of the highest win percent in the league. Check this out… (Wins/GP)

# NAME Win %
1 Antti Niemi 0.67
2 Jose Theodore 0.64
3 Jaroslav Halak 0.62
3 Evgeni Nabokov 0.61
5 Ilya Bryzgalov 0.61
6 Ryan Miller 0.60
7 Roberto Luongo 0.60
8 Semyon Varlamov 0.59
9 Jonathan Quick 0.59
10 Martin Brodeur 0.59
11 Craig Anderson 0.56
47 Carey Price 0.33

Sliver24 said...

However you slice it it certainly appears that the Canadiens' place in the standings would be significantly different if Halak had been given the starters job in December when it first looked like it should be his.

They might even be in first in their division for all we know.

Does that bode well for the playoffs? Maybe... just maybe.

MathMan said...

Win% is a team stat, not a goalie stat. That fallacy needs to die. Any goalie analysis that looks at win record is, by definition, invalid. You're analysing the team when you do that, not the goalie.

The biggest difference between the two goalies is how many goals the team scores in front of them, and that has nothing to do with the goalie.

There's nothing that actually says that if Halak had started more games he would have had more support than Price -- and that is, again, the chief difference between them. We might have Halak with more losses and Price with fewer, despite both of them playing at the same level they are now, and there might be more unjustified hand-wringing about the goaltending from meaningless projection of team results onto individual players.

Patte said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patte said...

"Win% is a team stat, not a goalie stat. That fallacy needs to die. Any goalie analysis that looks at win record is, by definition, invalid. You're analysing the team when you do that, not the goalie."
AMEN! i could not agree more.

I'm sick of hearing people say that goalies "pull off wins". Since when did hockey stop being a TEAM SPORT? When you loose, you loose as a team. In the dressing room after the loss in buffalo, I'm pretty sure they we're discussing the bad penalties, the bad man coverage/defensive positioning when those goals happened; it probably never crossed anyone's minds in that dressing room that Carey Price let them down.

Why did the habs play so awesomely during their western road trip, but haven't really played well since? I'm sure they all planned to play well; just didn't happen. There's more to the game than simple basic stats; sport psychology being a big one. A lot of technical aspects of the game also, like body positioning, turnovers, adaptive defence VS specific teams, etc. etc. We watch games, we look at numbers, we pick our favourites. Teams watch game videos, prepare strategies, pratice special plays, to prepare for specific teams. We don't know what they are all focusing on, what they are trying to do. All we can do is watch and guess.

All this to say that there are many variables that us spectators don't know about. In the end, yes, all we care about is the two points, and yes Halak was playing when the HABS won most of their points.

IF you ask me, The Carey price situation was initiated by coincidence. And Got worst since; probably because of pressure, speculations, the media, and much more. He's loosing confidence in himself because of everyone around him NOT recognising that a loss is a team result. That's why he still get starts.(because the team, unlike most fans, don't blame goalies for losses. They reward players that play well; just like Price has.)

It's also a coaching mentality to 'go with what worked' even though sometimes they don't understand why it worked. So, they'll go with Halak again.

Don't get me wrong, I'm loving what this team has done lately. Sticking in the race without Markov in the roster was so key by the way. And i'm enjoying watching Halak play, a lot. BUT, We also have another 1st class goalie, who has so much skill, and potential.. And who, even though he can't participate in as many wins as he'd like (notice how I worded that), is playing amazingly well at the moment. (also greatly helped the team finish 1st in the conference 2 year ago).

Halak seams to be favoured at the moment, that DOESN'T mean we should destroy Price with our comments and support.
WHat if halak tears a groin muscle tommorow? will all the Halak lovers think we're screwed?

Some people also say that it's good for Carey to go through this phase. I disagree. You don't mess with a goalie's confidence. That's all it takes for the, to be on their heals instead of their toes. The theories about him jumping into the big league too quickly is also a lunatic one. He doesn't need a Re-adaptation period. He's awesome; we see it every time he plays.