Martin Brodeur is a legendary goaltender for the New Jersey Devils. However, legends aren't infallible or without flaw. In the 2011-12 regular season, Brodeur's numbers were rather bad until the All Star Game. After that break, Brodeur was much more stingy in net, more difficult to beat, and his stats improved. His play in February, March, and two games in April weren't enough to salvage his regular season's numbers; but his play in the postseason is reason enough for many Devils fans that Marty is still, well, Marty. However, it raises the question of what happened on those goals allowed? What happened that drove those stats as low as they were until they improved?
Brodeur gave up 136 goals in the 2011-12 regular season and another 53 in the 2012 playoffs; a total of 188. To answer those questions and much more, I decided to look at all of them to get a closer look at what he has done. There's value in finding out how many of those 188 goals he should have stopped. It would worthwhile to see how many these goals against featured one of Brodeur's teammates making a serious error that led to the goal. For the first time, I decided to note whether the goal-scoring shot would count as a scoring chance - the part of the ice where opposing attackers want to get to and defenders want to make their stand. With this knowledge in conjunction with the overall stats, I think we can get a sense of how Brodeur did last season and that can help set our expectations for next season.
Over the summer, I reviewed all of the goals allowed and posted my findings month-by-month. This post serves as a summary of all of those findings, so please continue on after the jump to find out what those are along with some conclusions.
The Month-by-Month Posts of the Review
Since this is a summary, I'll be taking a larger look of Brodeur's season. For those of you who are interested in more details about the goals allowed, then you should check out the month-by-month posts. 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 NHL.com video of each goal allowed with some brief notes in a chart. There's even some observations about that reviewed time period. 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: 2 games played, 4 goals allowed
- November 2011: 10 games played, 31 goals allowed
- December 2011: 10 games played, 22 goals allowed
- January 2012: 10 games played, 24 goals allowed
- February 2012: 11 games played, 21 goals allowed
- March 2012: 14 games played, 31 goals allowed
- April 2012: 10 games played, 21 goals allowed
- May 2012: 11 games played, 21 goals allowed
- June 2012: 5 games played, 13 goals allowed
There are a lot more posts than in past seasons of this review as Brodeur and Devils went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. I think we can all agree that's a good thing. Feel free to peruse any or all of them.
How Many Were Soft?
In each of those month-by-month posts, I reviewed each goal allowed by Brodeur 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 Brodeur allow all season, but whether or not there was a trend of some kind.
Brodeur suffered an injury in his second appearance of the season, so he didn't really get going until November. However, his stats weren't good at all until February, so from that standpoint, one could argue that's when he got into a favorable groove. In terms of soft goals, though, he didn't start off too slowly. He was rather consistent in terms of the number of soft goals, with six to eight in each month except for his awesome February and his short October and June months.
Taking those soft goal counts with respect to the total number of goals allowed paints a different picture. Brodeur's December looks the most heinous in the regular season, followed by January. The monthly stats in both weren't good either. Yet, his worst percentage came in April, where he had a very solid 92.3% save percentage. While he started off the playoffs fairly well in the big picture, Brodeur just got beat on quite a few shots he should've stopped. Combined with Brodeur only allowing 21 goals in that month, those eight soft goals stand out even more.
Over the whole campaign, just under a quarter of all goals allowed by Brodeur were soft. That actually surprised me as I put the totals together. Think about it, very nearly one out of every four goals allowed by Brodeur in 2011-12 were stoppable. That's not exactly comforting, especially when the backup had an even worse percentage of soft goals to total goals. At the same time, this is further proof that a majority of the goals allowed are not directly the goaltender's fault; that they're not ones the goalie really should have made a stop on it. That may seem obvious, but it's a point worth remembering - especially after a goal is allowed.
Additionally, I believe this chart provides more proof that a goaltender who plays a significant part of a month or a season is bound to give up some soft goals. The amount may vary from goalie to goalie. Again, the only months where Brodeur didn't allow six or more soft ones were October, February, and June. October and June were really short, and Brodeur was hot in February (and arguably in June - though the numbers don't reflect that as Los Angeles creamed the Devils). However, the downside to that belief are two-fold. First, it means a goaltender can have a great month statistically and in general like Brodeur's May, and still give up a fair share of bad goals. Second, it means that it may not be possible that Brodeur can cut down on soft goals, which is disappointing given that 24.47% of soft-to-total goals allowed from 2011-12.
The Relative Location of All 188 Goals Allowed by Martin Brodeur
In addition to judging whether the goals allowed by Martin Brodeur were soft or not, I also observed where the shot beat Brodeur. This isn't precise information and all locations are relative to the goaltender; but it's better than hazarding guesses over what he does or does not still have and assuming that's where he's getting beat.
Brodeur isn't a butterfly goaltender and at age 40, I doubt he'll become one. However, I can see why some may wonder about that since Brodeur got beat low quite a lot in 2011-12. 95 of the 188 goals allowed came on shots with little height. I wouldn't go so far as to say that if Brodeur started to do his Patrick Roy impersonation then that total would be much lower. While some of those goals allowed were soft, most of those goals could have come off rebounds, deflections (like the low middle, a.k.a. the five-hole), and on his flank - all of which are difficult to stop. In terms of left-to-right, Brodeur got beat to his left moreso than his right, 83 to 66. At each level of height, more pucks got past him on his glove side. Again, that may not mean his glove side is significantly weaker; especially since the low shots were more prolific.
It is worth noting that the goals allowed vary in location from month to month, but the shots to Brodeur's lower left and medium left (e.g. past the glove without going shoulder-high, in between the body and the arm, etc.) were common across all months. Brodeur was beaten to his medium left at least once per month and to his left and low at least twice per month. While I don't expect or even want Brodeur to make wholesale changes to how he tends goal, it wouldn't be the worst idea in the world for him to work on getting beaten in those locations less often.
Skater Errors on the 188 Goals Allowed
While watching each goal allowed by Brodeur in 2011-12, I recorded the name of any skater who made an egregious error that led to the goal allowed. I tallied up how many errors for each name in the hopes of identifying who's made the most costly mistakes. Like with the locations, I will admit that it's not precise and it is a judgement call; but I tried to catch the really bad errors. Please note that goals allowed could have errors by multiple skater. Also, 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).
Errors weren't uncommon goals allowed by Brodeur. Over the whole campaign, there was at least one skater making an error on a little more than half of the goals. I don't think it's a coincidence that the highest percentage of errors on goals allowed occurred in Brodeur's worst statistical months of the season: November and December. While Brodeur definitely let up his fair share of softies, fans got to see some real errors leading to more goals allowed. I'm talking errors like giveaways, missed coverages, bad decisions, and so forth. I tried to limit myself to not search for fault on every single goal allowed; but these were just too easy to miss.
The play got a little better in following months and the errors really dipped in the playoffs. It's hard to find a skater error on a power play goal allowed, so I often didn't. That likely accounts for part of that dip, since the PK success rate dropped like an anvil int the air in the playoffs. I'd also like to think that the Devils just played better by way of not doing really stupid things so much; but that doesn't account all the times the skater(s) messed up and Brodeur bailed them out. At least we can say it suggests improved play, which I don't think many will argue against the Devils being better in, say, May compared to, say, November.
As far as who made the most errors, well, some names may surprise you while others certainly won't. Rookies by the league's definition are in italics, single errors mean the skater made a costly error all on their own, and multi errors mean that multiple skaters made errors that led to a goal against.
There were 78 goals allowed that had a single skater singled out for an error, and there were an additional 17 goals allowed that had two skaters called out for making a bad mistake. That results in 112 total errors across 28 different Devils. Your leader is a tie between Anton Volchenkov, who made five of his nine single errors in the playoffs, and Adam Larsson, who is a rookie who got fed significant minutes early and went through some adjustment/growing pains that led to some awful giveaways. They each had twelve total errors and they combine for a little over 20% of the team's. I expect Larsson to get better as he develops. I'm hoping Volchenkov gets his groove back, or at least doesn't cost the team dearly when he messes up.
It was a surprise at first to see Patrik Elias so high up on this list with ten errors. He led the team with five multi errors, so his mistakes often came with someone else also messing up. Throw in the fact that he plays both ways, he kills penalties, and he played against the toughs, and it's not so surprising to see that a chunk of his errors ended up behind Brodeur. Additionally, it's not a big surprise to see defensemen so high up this list as when they botch something up, it doesn't end well for the goalie or the team. Though, I'm "impressed" Kurtis Foster and Marek Zidlicky racked up six in their short time in New Jersey. Like with Volchenkov, most of Zidlicky's foul-ups came in the postseason; four out of five single errors.
How Many of the 188 Goals Allowed were Scored on Scoring Chances
New for this year, I decided to count whether the shot was taken in a scoring chance area for the goals allowed reviews. 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 this review; so I would take these findings with more grains of salt than the others. My count may be lower than reality as I erred on not counting a scoring chance for anything borderline. I also didn't count just touches off the stick, so deflections and re-directions weren't counted as chances. 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:
In the 2011-12 season, a majority of the goals allowed by Brodeur came off scoring chances: 104 out of 188. This shouldn't be so surprising. The attackers want to get into the slot, around the net, and fire open shots from circle and below. The defenders want to protect those areas. Shots there are more direct and closer, so it makes sense that so many goals would come from there.
However, in the playoffs, that total dropped. Whereas 82 goals allowed in the regular season came off scoring chances (82 out of 136 is about 60%), only 22 goals allowed out of 53 (about 42%) came from the same zone in the playoffs. For whatever reason, the playoffs featured plenty of goals off deflections, re-directions, and shots from distance and areas outside of the scoring chance zone. While I don't have past data to compare to, my feeling is that it's just coincidence. In a playoff series, a lot can go awry very quickly and can skew things just as fast due to the limited number of games. So even though the total number of games and minutes played are similar for the month, the approach in the games and what actually happened was different.
I will admit that the next logical question is how well did Brodeur do on all shots from scoring chances. I'd love to answer that but it can only be done correctly a total count of scoring chances in all games. I've only counted whether a goal allowed came off a chance. That makes this step forward a small one, but that's fine for the time being. It is some evidence that the other team is usually getting into a dangerous part of the ice to get one past Brodeur.
Conclusions & Your Take
Through looking each of the 188 goals allowed in 2011-12, here's the summary of the findings as they are. Brodeur allowed 46 soft goals out of 188, which is about a quarter of all goals allowed. Of those 188 goals allowed, 95 of them involved one or more of his teammates screwing up, which is about half of the total. In terms of shots from scoring chances, 104 goals allowed came from that zone which is about 55% of the total. Brodeur was most often beaten with low shots (95 GA) in terms of height and shots to his left (83 GA) in terms of width.
I don't believe Brodeur can cause his teammates to make mistakes, and I don't think he has control over where the shots come from the opposition. Those latter two findings suggest that if the Devils really want to cut down on goals allowed, then they should look at reducing errors and being more defensive in the scoring chance area. I will admit that without a total count of scoring chances could make the latter a false conclusion, but I don't think striving further improvement is a wrong idea. As for the soft goals, I have to believe that Brodeur has control over that. After all, a soft goal is a goal a goaltender should be expected to stop. That about one out of four were stoppable in 2011-12 shows that the majority of goals allowed aren't Brodeur's fault. It also shows a point of concern; that a goaltending miscue is bound to happen to hurt the team after some length of time.
While I hoped that Hedberg can cut down on his soft goals, I'm re-thinking that hope. I'm believing more and more that soft goals just happen for goalies on any level for some stretch of time. This past season opened up that possibility in my eyes. Brodeur was remarkably consistent in the number of soft goals with the exception of really short months (October, June) or a really hot month (February). Regardless of whether he was lit up regularly in November or stingy in May, Brodeur would give up several soft ones. For most of the months in 2011-12, where he was the regular starter, he would give up six to eight soft ones. While the proportion of soft-to-total changes based on the total number of goals allowed in a month; that small range held up in most months. If Brodeur can reduce that, then that would be fantastic; but I'm not sure it's a really reasonable demand to make like, say, working on stopping shots coming in low and/or his left side.
I will say that once again this review shows that the common stats aren't necessarily indicative of goaltender play. For example, take a look at the post for Brodeur's June. His stats don't suggest he did well in those five games at all, but looking at each of the goals allowed show that only one of them was really his fault. I've only found that out by digging into the details, making observations from it, and put a post together of those observations. Sure, we may easily remember it now since it was the Stanley Cup Finals and the most recent game the team played. However, weeks, months, or years from now, it's not going to be so easy to remember unless one puts in the work to find out what happened on the goals allowed. It's easier to just look at the stats, use them, and be done with it; even though there's additional value that would come from recording observations.
(Aside: The whole reason why we have stats at all - basic, advanced, or otherwise - is so that we can convey information about how a player or a team performed easily. It's faster and more objective to point to a metric than it is to rely on memory and observation. At the same time, stats aren't always perfect and so it is important to understand what the stat actually means and how to use it. I will readily admit this review isn't ideal, but it tells us something at least.)
Of course, that doesn't mean the common stats are always wrong after one takes a closer look. Maybe it's me as I'm still stuck on the 46 soft goals. When you also consider that Brodeur wasn't good at all in terms of save percentage in 2011-12; the conclusion that nearly 25% of all goals allowed in a season were soft concerns me. Remember, Brodeur was a sub-90% save percentage goalie in 2011-12 until he had an awesome February and a solid March. Even so, he was well below the league average. Sure, the review showed that a majority of the goals weren't his fault; but enough of them were his fault seemingly despite a high or low save percentage in a month - February excepted. Perhaps Brodeur's at the point of his career where he's going to give up that many soft goals in a month where he gets most of the starts. If so, then we need to accept this and temper our expectations (read: he will not necessarily repeat his 2012 playoff performance) as he's on the roster for two more years and I hope the rest of the Devils are prepared to make up for it. Since I've done this kind of review of soft goals for three years, that's something we can explore and discuss - in a separate post.
This all said: what's your opinion about Martin Brodeur 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 Brodeur on the team going into the next season? Please let me know all of your thoughts and feelings about Brodeur's play last season as well as this summary in the comments. Thank you for reading.