Statistically, Johan Hedberg was the better of the two goaltenders on the New Jersey Devils last season. He had a superior save percentage at even strength at 91.9% and overall at 91.8%. If you check out this adjustment in save percentages in this FanPost by Broad Street Hockey user everybodyhitswoohoo, Hedberg rates as one of the better goaltenders in the league. Overall, the Moose wasn't loose in 2011-12, which is quite impressive for a then-38 year old goaltender.
However, a closer look suggests that as good as the numbers look, it wasn't all glitter and rainbows. Hedberg was very good filling in for an injured Martin Brodeur in October and he was great in limited action in 2012. Yet, he was floundering in December in spot duty as Brodeur was in that month, and he wasn't all that solid in January and February either. Also, it must be noted that he only appeared in 28 games: 27 in the regular season and one fill-in during the playoffs. This really shouldn't be a surprise, Hedberg is a backup goaltender and backups usually play 25-30 games. You hope he has some good games to outweigh any poor performances, and I think it's fair to say he's had his share in 2011-12. Again, his overall stats are pretty good, especially when compared with starter Martin Brodeur.
Yet, I wonder what drove those numbers; the goals allowed themselves. Of course, what's done is done and Hedberg's performance in 2011-12 helped him earn a two-year, $2.8 million contract. The Moose will be on the books through 2014. While the Moose will remain the backup for the time being, I think it's worth investigating what happened in 2011-12. Where was he beaten the most? How many of those goals allowed involved an egregious error by the skater? How many came off a shot that may be termed as a scoring chance? We know Hedberg allowed 60 goals, but how many of them were soft - goals he should have stopped? We can answer those questions by reviewing those 60 goals Hedberg allowed and hopefully get a better insight as to what to expect going forward. Please continue on after the jump to see the summary of all of the findings from this summer's review of the 60 goals Johan Hedberg allowed in 2011-12.
The Posts of the Review Itself
Over the past few weeks, I went through Hedberg's season month by month. I combined all of 2012 into one post since Hedberg only allowed 17 goals in the limited amount of time he played. In each of the following links, I discussed what I found in that specific review while explaining the terms I've used in this review (e.g. what a "soft goal allowed" is, what is a "skater error," what is a scoring chance, etc.). I also provided a link to a video of each goal allowed with some brief notes in a chart. If you're interested in looking at a particular time period or a goal, then I direct you to check out these posts:
- October 2011: 18 Goals Allowed, 8 Games Played
- November 2011: 9 Goals Allowed, 4 Games Played
- December 2011: 16 Goals Allowed, 6 Games Played
- All of 2012: 17 Goals Allowed, 10 Games Played
How Many Were Soft?
In each post, I reviewed each goal allowed by Hedberg and made a judgment on whether it was a "soft" goal or not. I have defined a soft goal as the following: The goalie must have seen the shot coming; the shot was not deflected or change otherwise in motion; the goalie was in position to actually make the stop; and the goaltender made an uncharacteristic mistake that led to the goal. If all were true, then I deemed the goal as "soft." I've summarized each month's count in the following chart to determine not only how many soft goals did Hedberg allow all season, but whether or not there was a trend of sorts.
Given that Hedberg played so little at times, it's really difficult (or pointless) to identify a trend. Especially in the 2012 portion of the season, where Hedberg didn't appear in more than three games per month. In the bigger picture, soft goals allowed happened to Hedberg were not uncommon. Whenever he played for any length of time, he usually let up a few, which may be expected in the long run. Goalies make mistakes like anyone else.
Over the whole campaign, I counted 21 soft goals for Hedberg. That's 35% of all goals allowed, which leads to two immediate conclusions. The first is the negative: Hedberg could have cut down on his goals against by a good margin. It suggests that he makes a good amount of mistakes and that The second is the positive: the majority of goals allowed by Hedberg weren't goals that Hedberg could and should have stopped. Should the Devils want to cut down on goals allowed - and they really should - then they would do well to look elsewhere in the team's performance. Neither conclusion doesn't mean that I think the Devils can eliminate all goals allowed or that Hedberg shouldn't give up any soft goals. It does mean that improvements may be possible on both fronts.
Incidentally, I am a little concerned that over a third of all of Hedberg's goals allowed were soft. Last season, Hedberg allowed 68 goals and I counted 18 as soft, which was 26.47% of the total. Hedberg got worse in both total soft goals and soft goals as a percentage of his total. That's not a good finding. Now, I don't have any other reviews of Hedberg's seasons to compare it to. I can't tell you definitively whether this was a new high for Hedberg, or whether this is "normal" for him given his past. I really wish I could tell you what the latter would be, it would help temper expectations of the goaltender. The Moose isn't getting any younger, though, and it wouldn't surprise me if Hedberg is around this percentage of soft goals again in 2012-13. He's not going to improve as a goaltender. At the same time, I do hope he does give up fewer soft goals and show that this past season was a peak more or less.
The Relative Location of All 60 Goals Allowed by Johan Hedberg
As a part of this casual qualitative analysis, I recorded where the puck beat Hedberg relative to his own positioning for each goal allowed. This way we can find out how often did a shot get past his left side compared to his right side; and how often he got beaten through the five-hole among other observations. It's not a precise location, but it does well for general information on where Hedberg was beaten.
With only 60 goals allowed, some random peaks in some months drove some of the numbers. For example, Hedberg was beaten high eight times in October and then ten more times over the rest of the season. In any case, Hedberg got beaten five-hole more than any single location with eleven goals allowed by that area. That is followed by shots going by his glove side at a mid-range height with ten, and then a three-way tie for third with low shots to his left, high shots to his left, and high shots to his right with eight each.
In terms of where shots got past the Moose laterally, his left and right sides were nearly identical in terms of goals allowed. Shooters didn't appear to favor one side or another over the season, as Hedberg was beaten 23 times on his left and 24 times on his right. Again, the small population size of goals allowed (and by extension, games and minutes played) make it unclear to say Hedberg was or wasn't weak on one side. The findings suggest he wasn't in 2011-12. In terms of the height of the goals allowed, the Moose got beaten with more low shots (25), than mid-range (17) and high (18) shots. The slight difference may be attributed to rebounds, as usually shooters are just trying to get at the puck among chaos as opposed to having possession and time to pick out what part of the net is open. There may be other, better explanations though.
Compared to last season's goals allowed locations, it appears Hedberg has improved with goals allowed going through his legs or high blocker side. That's a positive finding, even if it may be coincidence considering Hedberg gave up eight fewer goals in 2011-12.
Skater Errors & Scoring Chances on the 60 Goals Allowed
Last summer, I made a note of any particularly egregious error by a skater on the ice that led to the goal allowed. While watching each goal allowed, I recorded the guilty party's last name and tallied up how many errors for each. Goals allowed could have multiple skater errors and an error doesn't absolve the goaltender if they make an error of their own or let in something they should've stopped (a.k.a. a "soft" goal).
In 2011-12, I counted 25 goals allowed by Hedberg that had at least one error by a skater. That represents 41.67% of all of the goals allowed, meaning the remainder of 35 goals didn't have any discernible screw-up by a player. Over the season, November and December led with seven each. It was more apparent in November since Hedberg only allowed nine goals in total. As far as who made the most errors, here's my tally. Rookies by the NHL's definition are in italics.
A single error means the skater was the only one who made an error. A multi error means that skater wasn't the only one who messed up badly on the play. 21 of the 25 goals with errors only had one skater error. On the other four, there were two skaters who made a serious mistake on each. Therefore, there's a total of 29 skater errors over 25 goals allowed. Given the relatively small population size of both goals allowed and minutes played by Hedberg, Adam Larsson and Petr Sykora lead the way with a mere three errors each. That's really not that much at all. I will say that I'm not surprised that five of the nine players with more than one error were defensemen. When they usually falter in their own end, it can easily end badly for the goaltender and the team. Even so, it was spread out pretty well. I was surprised to see Brad Mills and Matt Taormina make errors; but perhaps I shouldn't since they didn't stick around on the NHL roster. Those errors may have had a little something to do with that.
This summer, I also took a stab at noting whether the goal came off a scoring chance. I'm using the definition of a scoring chance as explained in this Edmonton Journal article by Jonathan Willis. I've never really done it myself, before. Among all the findings to take with a grain of salt, this may be the one since I could have been off in deciding what was and was not a chance. I erred on not counting a scoring chance, so if anything, my count may be low. Caveats aside with inexperience, I wanted to know how many of the goals allowed came from shots in that part of the defensive zone. Here is that count by month:
Even if my count is too low, I think it's telling that more than half of the goals allowed by Hedberg came on scoring chances. The only monthly aberrations were January and February. Hedberg didn't play so much in either month so that could be more (bad) luck than anything else. Still, it furthers the notion in my mind that the slot and the area around it are the most important areas of the ice to defend. Keeping opposing players outside of that area is preferred. Keep in mind that a goal allowed on a scoring chance doesn't mean it was or wasn't soft. Nevertheless,
Incidentally, it would be fabulous if I knew how many total shots from scoring chances Hedberg faced in 2011-12 to breakdown Hedberg's save percentage on scoring chances. Yet, without a full count of chances, I can't do that properly. At least this is a step in the right direction, assuming I'm doing it correctly.
Conclusions & Your Take
At this point, I think it's time to sum up what was found in this summary. First, 35% of the 60 goals Hedberg gave up last season were soft goals. This is a larger percentage than what was reviewed in 2010-11 and given that Hedberg isn't likely to become a better goaltender at age 39, it's a point of concern in my opinion. The Devils have every reason to cut down on goals allowed and this is one area where the goaltender himself needs to work on. For lack of a better suggestion, it seems the Moose could stand to be more focused and aware even in his advanced age to cut down on goals he should have stopped. He'll definitely let in some soft ones next season (I wonder if there's a natural rate of soft goals allowed for a goalie?), the goal is to reduce the number such that the percentage of soft goals out of his total goals allowed is also reduced. If Hedberg wants to focus on a particular part of where he's being beaten on, then low shots, specifically to his five-hole, would be a good start.
Even so, a majority of the goals allowed by Hedberg in 2011-12 weren't soft. In fact, a majority of them came from shots that would be termed as scoring chances. That means opposing players had to get into spots on the ice to be able to beat Hedberg more often than not. Improvements in defending that part of the ice could help in cutting down total goals allowed. Additionally, 25 or 41.67% of all goals had some kind of skater error. While not every goal allowed had an egregious mistake made by a teammate, those mistakes by the players can be corrected. Reducing their occurrence would help out Hedberg's total number of goals going forward - which may be more vital than usual since, again, Hedberg's not getting younger and he's not going anywhere until after 2013-14.
Can the Devils be fine with a goaltender who gives up about 60 goals in about 25-30 appearances? Sure. Again, Hedberg's a backup. If he can repeat his season, then that would be great. The concerning part is whether that means he'll have really good stretches mixed with poor ones or whether he'll be more consistent. If Hedberg is able to get that down by several goals, or at least not let up as many soft ones, then it's all the better for a team that is going to have to look for ways to improve from within.
This all said: what's your opinion about Johan Hedberg from this casual qualitative analysis of his 2011-12 campaign? What did you learn from this review and summary? What do you conclude from these findings? Do you agree or disagree with what I concluded; did you come up with something different? Does this make you feel more or less confident with Hedberg on the team going into the next season? Please let me know all of your thoughts and feelings about Hedberg's play last season as well as this summary in the comments. Thank you for reading.