A few weeks ago, I took a look at the amount of goals we might expect the Devils to produce in the upcoming season (granted, a certain Russian player decided to blow that study up to an extent, but we can just look at the production expected from other new signings to adjust that number). I figured a good companion piece to that study would be to take a quick look at how many goals we expect the Devils to allow this upcoming season.
Now, like the scoring analysis, this projection will be more of the "back of the envelope" variety, but hopefully it will give us a reasonable expectation of how the Devils should perform defensively this year. Now, predicting goals against basically breaks down into how many shots the team allows, and how well the goaltender is stopping them. Based on the Devils ability to prevent shots over the past few seasons, better work in the crease could make them a force at preventing goals.
Let's start with shots allowed. The Devils have been among the league leaders in shot prevention over the past three seasons (2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13). Seems reasonable to expect that they should remain around that same threshold going forward. The 23.1 shots allowed by the Devils in this past shortened season seems a bit of an outlier, as around 25 to 27 SA/G was good for the league lead in that category over the previous 4 years. I don't think expecting the Devils to allow 26 or so shots per game is too outlandish of a prediction. We'll call it 26.5 to err closer to league averages.
While the Devils have been an elite team as far as preventing shots against, their team goaltending has been mediocre to bad over the past 3 regular seasons. Martin Brodeur's save percentage has been sub-par for the past few years, and while his last season (career low SV% of .901) featured rough PK luck and a decent amount of breakdowns out front, he still appears to be in decline at age 41.
Enter Cory Schneider. With Schneider coming over to New Jersey in a draft day trade, backup netminder Johan Hedberg was shown the door in the form of a compliance buyout in the week following. Hedberg had put up some solid numbers overall in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons taking about a third of the starts. Though he wasn't as great as Schneider, he was actually buoying the Devils' save percentage numbers to an extent in those first two years. Moose came tumbling back to earth, though, with a cover-your-eyes bad campaign in 2013. Schneider, on the other hand, continued with the high level of play that saw him usurp the starting job from Roberto Luongo in Vancouver. His save percentages over the past three seasons have been .929, .937, and .927. Compared to New Jersey's numbers of .904, .907, and .890 (skewed a bit by ENG, but still bottom 10 each year) that could make a big difference for the Devils goals against.
So, just as John concluded in his GA analysis for Brodeur, I am inclined to give Schneider the majority of starts this season. Let's say it's a 55/45 split between Schneider and Brodeur for next year. That would give the former Canuck 45 starts, leaving Marty with the remaining 37. I will nudge the save percentages for the two goaltenders a shade (call it .005) towards the league average (based on last season) to account for some possible regression and other factors.
So that gives Brodeur a .906 projected sv% and Schneider a .922. If we add a shot to Schneider's SA/G based on Marty's puck handling/shot suppression, that gives the team 27.5 SA for Schneider starts. So let's take a look at the results:
So based on this quick analysis, the Devils project to give up in the neighborhood of 189 goals next season. That would put them near the top of the league in GA and could help offset the fact that they don't project to score a whole lot next season. [Side note: Remove Kovalchuk's 39 goals and replace them with 20 from Jagr and add in 5 additional goals from the Zidlicky signing and you end up with... 189 goals scored next season.] So while the Devils may be good enough to reach the postseason based on their defense and their goaltending upgrades, it may be time for everyone to prepare themselves for a lot of 2-1 games in Newark this winter.