Out of 168 goals allowed in 77 regular season games and 15 allowed in 5 playoff games, 38 were soft goals, or 20.77% of his total. In short: a goal against New Jersey is not usually Brodeur's fault. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Back on July 4, I've begun the first in a series of posts reviewing each and every goal Martin Brodeur gave up in the 2009-10 regular season for the New Jersey Devils. That's right, all 168 goals allowed by Brodeur Every post thereafter focused on a particular month, every goal was looked at, general location relative to Brodeur was recorded, and thoughts came together on how Brodeur did that month.
Though, the original inspiration for this series came on April 25, where I reviewed each of the 15 goals Brodeur allowed in the 2010 playoffs against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Before continuing, let me make something clear. I love using stats. Stats are wonderful when used and interpreted correctly. There's less bias in numbers compared to our memories. They can be counted and calculated a lot more easily than to rely on outside reports or to look at all goals ourselves. We utilize them to compare players, to judge player's performance, and to set expectations for the future among other uses.
However, after finishing this review, I can certainly agree that a stat all by itself can be misleading. We can look at Brodeur's stat-line for February, March, or even the playoffs and conclude that he didn't play well. However, when looking at each goal allowed - each strike against Brodeur's stats, we may have a better understanding of what was and what wasn't truly Brodeur's fault. This isn't to say that we should eschew stats or ignore them. It's simply not possible to review a player's actual work by video, and even when it's available, it takes a lot of work to do so. With a post each week, the project lasted close to two months. We don't have the time do all of that, so stats make it easier to get an idea of how a player played.
Ultimately, and this is the biggest conclusion I can make from this project, Jacques Plante's larger point about blaming goaltenders for goals against was right. In the first post in this series, I quoted this quote from Todd Denault's Jacques Plante, page 111, where he quotes Plante's book, Goaltending (p. i):
"In his book Goaltending, Plante wrote, 'From now on, if you have a tendency to point the finger at the goalie, try to replay each goal and you will notice the goalie is seldom guilty. Watch what goes on in front of the net and you'll get a better idea of why the goal went in.' "
Read on to find links to each post by month, a summary of my findings, and I hope you will agree that Plante's quote is definitely applicable for goaltenders of today. Please set your viewing to "Wide" to see all charts and graphs.
The Previous Posts in This Series
Each of these posts provide links to each of the goals allowed by Martin Brodeur last season for the New Jersey Devils, hosted and provided by NHL.com. If there's one in particular you would like to see, or if you want to go through them all yourself, then you are able to do so. The explanation of my approach are in these posts (e.g. what is a "soft" goal), as well as details for the goals allowed in that particular month. They are presented in this list in chronological order of the season (note: minutes played comes from Yahoo! Sports)
- October 2009: 27 goals allowed in 11 games (671 minutes)
- November 2009: 18 goals allowed in 11 games (647 minutes)
- December 2009: 34 goals allowed in 15 games (863 minutes)
- January 2010: 33 goals allowed in 15 games (843 minutes)
- February 2010: 18 goals allowed in 6 games (344 minutes)
- March 2010: 32 goals allowed in 13 games (767 minutes)
- April 2010: 6 goals allowed in 6 games (364 minutes)
- 2010 Playoffs - 15 goals allowed in 5 games (299 minutes)
The Relative Location of All 168 Goals Allowed by Martin Brodeur
In this casual qualitative analysis, I took note of where the puck beat Brodeur relative to Brodeur himself. Did the shot go to his left, right or middle? Was the shot a high one that went over his shoulder, a low one that slid on the ice, or a middle height that got over his pad but was well within the range of his arm? It's not the most ironclad way of doing it, but it's something to think about all the same.
The most common way opponents beat Brodeur was in the "low middle" area, also known as "between the legs" or the "5-hole." Not every goal that went that way was soft. Deflected shots, shots through screens, and shots that beat Brodeur while he was moving laterally got through Brodeur's legs at times. I wouldn't call those soft, necessarily. Still, one has to wonder whether Brodeur to focus on keeping his stick in between him or getting those legs completely closed when he's down in position.
Interestingly, the most common height of shots to beat Brodeur were low shots. In addition to the 42 goals that went between the legs, there were another 41 that got him on the sides. Only 45 goals got in at middle height, and 40 got past Marty high. On most of these, Brodeur didn't have much of a shot at stopping them, as you'll see in the next section. Still, at least we should not worry so much about shots with elevation going at Brodeur in 10-11 based on 09-10.
Likewise, both sides of Brodeur were nearly equal in terms of goals allowed. 64 were allowed to Brodeur's left, and 60 were allowed to his right. It's not evidence that Brodeur has become weaker on his glove side or his stick side; or at least, it's not evidence that opposing players are punishing Brodeur significantly more on side or not.
Note: I didn't record relative location for his 15 goals allowed in the playoffs. However, you will see playoff goals in the next section.
The Goals Allowed by Martin Brodeur in 2009-10: 183 Goals in 82 Games
The big aspect I looked for with each goal allowed by Brodeur in the last season was whether the goal allowed was "soft" or not. Did Brodeur have a reasonable chance to stop the puck, but failed of his own design? Admittedly, it is a judgment call, which is why I linked to each goal allowed so you can come to your own conclusions as well as explaining my thoughts in the separate posts. In summarizing the each month's tally, we can answer additional questions. Did Brodeur allow more soft goals as the season went on? In what months did Brodeur get beaten the most? Was there a trend over the season? And so forth. Here are the numbers in a chart format:
The regular season part of April really sticks out like a sore thumb. It was a short month (6 games), Brodeur allowed more than one goal in only one game, and when a few of those were bad ones to give up, the percentage skyrocketed.
Still, based on this summary, it is apparent that Brodeur starts off the season slowly. Yes, his stats in February and March weren't great; but in looking at it this way, he was giving up more bad goals in October and at a higher percentage in November. Interestingly, those two months along with the short April were the only months to beat his season percentage of soft goals. This leads me to the second main conclusion of this review: Martin Brodeur isn't responsible for a majority of the goals allowed. Just under 21% of them, or close to 1 out of 5, appeared to be his fault. The percentage started off higher, declined going into February where it hit a low point, rose up to a level similar to January, spiked in the regular season in April, and then went back down closer to the season's percentage in the playoffs. Were Brodeur really fatigued as the season goes on, wouldn't we see the trend reversed with more soft goals allowed later on?
Here are those numbers represented by a line chart:
The graph really shows how Brodeur was beaten most often in December and January - the middle of the season. March also had a high number of goals against. However, those three months also stick out as the months Brodeur played the most games in 2009-10: 15 in December and January, 13 in March. It shouldn't be so surprising that the number of goals allowed increased in the months that saw Brodeur play more games.
What should be surprising is how the gap between the non-soft goals and the soft goals is easily seen all the way up to that short April. Even there, in the short playoffs in April, a gap returns - evidence that Brodeur was not the main cause for those goals allowed in the postseason.
Incidentally, I calculated the goals against average for each month and the playoffs based on the original chart.
Here, please notice that the rate of soft goals actually did go up as the season went on. The high throughout the review remained in October, but the GAA did tend to rise after the season-low in February. Given that the GAA after February was based on 6, 3, and 3 soft goals in subsequent periods, respectively, I'm skeptical to say whether it's really telling of anything. Seeing the values graphed shows a nearly flat line outside of the ends. Even there, it's not even close to the non-soft goals rate. What's more telling in my opinion is that Brodeur didn't come close to a GAA of 1 soft goal in either month. A few would happen, but only in April did it come close to his non-soft GAA - again, a month that saw 3 of each kind.
Here, February represents a peak given the number of goals allowed in such a short month. Only the playoffs come close for the same reason. In terms of non-soft goals, Brodeur has kept his GAA below 2 except for those two periods of time and March, where he's just slightly over 2.00.
By goals, there was no upward trend of soft goals allowed by Brodeur over the 2009-10 season. There does appear to be an increase after February by GAA, but again, the GAA itself was so low that I'm not sure it means much of anything. The increase ultimately went from 0.35 to 0.47 to 0.49 to 0.60. That's total increase 0.25, and still not even higher than October's 0.72.
Therefore, I'm not convinced Brodeur got tired and played worse over time last season. Instead, I'm more convinced that he should get a lot less blame when things go wrong for the Devils; given that close to 80% of the goals that Brodeur allowed in both the 2009-10 season and playoffs weren't solely his own fault. Plante's larger point held true for Martin Brodeur.
Questions for Future Analysis
There are likely many questions (some of them raised here) you may have at this point is whether this is a good proportion of soft goals to non-soft goals. You may completely agree that Brodeur was at fault for only 20.77% of the goals allowed in the 82 total games he appeared in 2009-10. Is that a percentage that's below or above the league average? How many goaltenders gave up fewer or more soft goals than Brodeur? Where do they get scored on the most? Is it "normal" for a goaltender to allow a quarter of total goals between his legs? How does this compare with Brodeur's performance in 2008-09 or in prior seasons? Would 20-21% count as "seldom" enough to justify Plante's quote? Would his quote apply to most other NHL goaltenders? And so forth.
Unfortunately, I can't answer those questions based on this alone. Believe me, I'd love to see definitive answers along with a correct context to these findings.
You'd have to do something like this for other goaltenders or previous seasons by Martin Brodeur, and compare the findings to get an actual answer. Ultimately, there is lack of context to this entire review that limits it's impact. I fully recognize that. That's why I went on about stats prior to the jump in this post. It took an effort that lasted close to two months to do this for Brodeur. It's going to take a lot more time to do the same for other goaltenders or Brodeur's previous seasons, assuming the video is completely available. I'm not willing to put that effort in, and I doubt many are as well. Therefore, we use stats that are available - and we're not going to stop using stats.
If you want to take a crack at it, by all means, go ahead. Feel free to use this post as a jumping off point for additional analysis. I must caution you to be prepared to spend more time on it than you may think.
I'd like to thank you all for reading. This review into the whole season, I hope, answered some of the initial questions raised, referenced in that first post back on July 4. I'd like to think it gives us a more complete picture of how Brodeur performed in 2009-10 for the Devils. I'd also like to think the review helps dispute the theory that "Brodeur is old, he plays a lot of games, he gets tired, ergo, he doesn't play so well." Lastly, we are fortunate
However, I've written a lot (and put up a few charts and graphs), so you know my take. What's your opinion? Did you at least appreciate this qualitative look at Brodeur last season? What did you learn from this review overall? What did you conclude from this summary? Do you agree or disagree with my own conclusions? What do you expect from Martin Brodeur in 2010-11 based on this summary? Please let me know all of your thoughts and feelings about Brodeur's play last season as well as this summary in the comments.