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The 2015-16 Canadiens needed average goaltending, not Carey Price

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Carey Price is widely regarded as the best goaltender in the world, but statistically speaking, the Habs didn't need that last season.

Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The issue of the Canadiens goaltending this past season has been discussed quite a bit, with varying opinions. Michel Therrien haters would say that he is nothing without surreal Carey Price goaltending, and his advocates would say that they missed the playoffs because of the poor goaltending.

Some even attacked Marc Bergevin's tenure for not reacting earlier, and then trying a hail mary to fix the situation with Ben ScrivensLet's set the reference. I took all the goalies in the league, and looked at numbers for goalie who played 6 games (360min) in all situation and 320min for even strength.

All situations/regular season > 360min

League

Price

Condon

Scrivens

W/O Price

Overall average saving percentage

91.5

93.4

90.3

90.6

90.3

Low risk shot saving percentage

96.8

97.0

97.8

98.2

97.9

Medium risk shot saving percentage

92.1

94.3

90.3

93.9

91.1

High risk shot saving percentage

82.7

86.0

79.3

72.9

77.9

5v5 / regular season / > 320min

Overall average saving percentage

92.5

93.9

91.4

92.8

91.7

Low risk shot saving percentage

97.5

97.0

98.2

99.4

98.5

Medium risk shot saving percentage

93.0

95.1

90.6

95.4

91.6

High risk shot saving percentage

83.9

86.4

81.7

77.5

80.8

As you can see, the Habs were clearly better off with Price by a healthy margin, except for one situation. For some reason, Price performed under the league average for low-risk shot at even strength, where both Mike Condon and Scrivens were better. In fact they posted better average in that department no matter the situation.

The Habs allowed 2408 shots, and gave up 233 goals. If they would have the league average SV%, they would allowed 205 goals. 28 less goals! The league average was 219 goals. That's roughly X wins, Y points, and a place in the playoffs.

The results are split in wins-losses-shootout. I think that the shootout is a different skill for goalies and players, so I put them separately. Through 82 games, the Canadiens posted a record of 33-41-8

The Habs goaltending was better than the opposition in 39 games, where their record was 31-3-5. The opponents had the better goalie 43 times, leading to a record of 2-38-3.

In games where their save percentage was above or equal to league average (91.5)  their record was 27-2-6 over 35 games. They played 47 games with below that average, leading to a record of 6-39-2. And as the save percentages go, so does the record.

For games where the percentage was between 90 and 91.5, their record was 5-7-1. Between 85 and 90 yielded them a record of 1-13-1 over 15 games. Finally, anything 85 and below saw them go 0-19-0. We can see how dramatic the drop off his when the Habs had less than league average goaltending, thus how heavily they relied on Carey Price.

There is perhaps some good news for Michel Therrien in the end. The league SV% was 91.5, which represents more or less one goal every 12 shots. The Habs gave up less than 25 shots in exactly 25 games, and somehow went just 10-14-1. So, even when they were suppressing shots, they weren't getting support in net.

Maybe it lies in the high scoring chances. During those 25 times, they were more or less equal. Of course, I don't have the full detail of what kind of scoring chances they had. I have to trust the numbers and the definition of war-on-ice, where I picked my data from, but more often than not when they were actually leading in high-danger chances.

During the drought, the goaltenders had an average saving percentage of 88.0. That's 2% less than the season average. The average low-risk shot saving percentage was 97,4, the medium-risk shot saving percentage was 91,5, and the high-risk shot saving percentage was 65.

It really meets the eye test. I had impression that every time the Habs made a mistake it was in the back of the net, and for a while that really was the case. Is it possible that the Therrien system is built to fail miserably without good quality goaltending?

Is it possible that after playing two full years of conservative hockey, the players were not able to adjust their play in the way that they could muster good possession numbers without failing at defending?

Well, in short, the goaltending was really bad. We went from stellar Price to abysmal backup performances, and that was what really blew their playoff chances. A discrepancy that big between their backups and the league average doesn't matter when you have your workhorse for 70 games or so, but that wasn't the case.

Yes, having Carey Price would have made the Canadiens significantly better, but they probably would have made the playoffs if his replacements were just able to muster up average performances.