Thursday's numbers: On the rebound...

Not this guy again!

I would really love to spend this space making fun of the Minnesota Wild, whose fans are sadly coming to the realization that their team may not be as good as they thought they were, but I think there are more important things to talk about.

Either way, if you were wondering, after December 12th, the Minnesota Wild had a team-tied save percentage of 93% and a shooting percentage of 9.8%. Adding those numbers together and we have a PDO of 102.8%. Since then, in the last ten games, Minnesota have managed a save percentage of 93.8% still, but their shooting percentage has dropped to 2.4%. While we talk often about how their save percentage is what should have regressed, it was their shooting that has dipped. The goaltending is still near-Tim Thomas level, however, that could legitimately be because the team is slowing down the game.

Thing is, when you slow down the game, you also take away odd-man rushes, quick passes leading to goals, and all that fun stuff at the other end of the ice, so maybe the Wild are playing a defensive style that allows their goalies to succeed. The difference was in their shooting percentage. Definitely something to look out for going forward, if the team can sustain that save percentage.

Anyway, I would be remiss if I spent his blog which focuses on a good hockey team talking about a bad hockey team, so I'll instead focus on something that I have long figured about Roberto Luongo, and the quality of his rebound control.

I think I can call Roberto Luongo the best "first-save" goaltending in the NHL, and if I can't, well, show me the data and I'll change my opinion. On mid-range shots, he's very big and blocks down angles, so even when the opposition makes him move, he's always right in position for the save. This is partly why you so rarely see Luongo make highlight-reel saves fans expect from superstar goaltenders, and why he appears to let in so many weak ones: He's always in position, so the ones that get in just sort of find a way to sneak through his equipment and they look worse.

I make that point a lot, but we really need to consider how many saves Luongo really manages to make. Since coming back from his injury, he's been absolutely nails in the Canucks' net and really making people forget Cory Schneider's streak. Not to degrade Schneider in any way, but Alain Vigneault was right on the mark when, in the middle of Schneider's streak, he called Luongo "obviously" the number one goalie.

You all remember my friend Rob Pettapiece, who has helped me out before with his thoughts on prospect rankingsand save percentage over small samples (which we do need to take into account when we talk about Luongo's recent play, particularly his recent play against Minnesota). Rob is an amateur sabermetrician who has done some very good work on Canadian football, among other things (he lets me write for him at the CIS Blog), in the past, and he's become a bit of a lifeline to me lately, doing some very important math.

Earlier, I alluded to rebounds. Gabriel Desjardins did some work in 2009 showing that save percentages were smaller in the seconds directly after a shot on goal, so I had Rob look at last season in the NHL and find some of the best players at creating rebounds and the best goaltenders at preventing rebounds, namely, which goalies had the fewest shots against within three seconds of a save. Unsurprisingly, Roberto Luongo is good:

name team shots goals saves rebounds observed rebound% estimated rebound% skill goals avoided due to rebounds
JONATHAN QUICK L.A 1278 99 1179 28 2.4% 3.2% 2.8
JAMES REIMER TOR 901 60 841 18 2.1% 3.3% 1.7
STEVE MASON CBJ 1160 103 1057 28 2.6% 3.4% 1.7
JIMMY HOWARD DET 1443 123 1320 39 3% 3.4% 2.1
ILYA BRYZGALOV PHX 1598 107 1491 46 3.1% 3.5% 1.8
ROBERTO LUONGO VAN 1369 91 1278 41 3.2% 3.6% 1.0
TY CONKLIN STL 453 49 404 10 2.5% 3.6% 0.3
MIKE SMITH T.B 412 42 370 9 2.4% 3.6% 0.3
BRIAN ELLIOTT COL 1164 115 1049 34 3.2% 3.6% 0.8
JONATHAN BERNIER L.A 528 41 487 14 2.9% 3.6% 0.4


(Data grabbed from five-on-five, score-tied situations)

Now, keep in mind that no two shots are alike in any NHL building so the data we're working with may be slightly biased towards buildings (which explains why the three Toronto goaltenders were 2, 12 and 13 last season, despite not being good goalies). I think that there is enough of a gap between Luongo (sixth) and Schneider (42nd) for us to say that this is a talent that Luongo legitimately has.

Luongo's observed % is better than his estimated skill because "we want to estimate how well he'll do going forward, not how he did in the past. To make that estimate, we have to regress his observed performance towards the league average."

I don't know how to do a regressions analysis, but Rob does, rounding out the sample sizes by adding shots to each player's total and assuming the league average in rebounding percentage (3.8%). Also, part of the reason why the "goals prevented through rebounds" statistic is pretty low is because this is a score-tied thing only. The one goal that Luongo saved in score-tied situations possibly bought the Canucks an extra win last season. Certainly beats the reverse.

Despite the old story of Luongo falling down on his stomach allowing goals, he's quite good at preventing those situations. Last night on a two-on-one, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, without space for a past, just wound up with a howitzer about 20 feet out. Luongo, well at the top of his crease, got his right shoulder on it and deflected the puck into the netting. No second chance for the other guy on the rush, no continuation of the play, just another face-off.

Is Luongo the sixth best goalie in the league at rebound control? Knowing how differently each arena records a shot, I would be hesitant to say that. We do know he's good at it, however.

As for which shooters are creating rebounds? I'll stick to looking at the Canucks in this piece (although I will mention there are some San Jose shooters who are good at hockey):

name team shots goals saved shots rebounds observed rebound% estimated rebound% skill
VAN #36 HANSEN VAN 95 9 86 7 8.1% 4.9%
VAN #29 ROME VAN 45 0 45 4 8.9% 4.6%
VAN #10 TAMBELLINI VAN 96 7 89 5 5.6% 4.3%
VAN #21 RAYMOND VAN 167 11 156 7 4.5% 4.1%
VAN #4 BALLARD VAN 45 2 43 2 4.7% 3.9%
VAN #3 BIEKSA VAN 75 5 70 3 4.3% 3.9%
VAN #33 SEDIN VAN 114 8 106 4 3.8% 3.8%
VAN #27 MALHOTRA VAN 89 7 82 3 3.7% 3.8%
VAN #17 KESLER VAN 166 22 144 5 3.5% 3.7%
VAN #23 EDLER VAN 77 3 74 2 2.7% 3.6%


Basically, more reason to love the Honey Badger, as well as Aaron Rome.

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