One of the metrics that I calculate on the Goaltender Home Page is "hot" and "cold" games by goaltender - both for the National Hockey League (back through 1970 at this writing) and for the American Hockey League (back through 2003). The premise of the calculation looks at a goaltender's "expected" number of saves, given the season and opponent. This is similar to the "Quality Starts" concept, although it allows for variability between era and between opponent - for instance, a goaltender facing the 1985 Edmonton Oilers should expect to allow more goals than a goaltender facing the 1992 San Jose Sharks, even if the goaltenders face thirty shots apiece.
I'll write more about this calculation in a later article, but the gist is that for each season, I aggregate each team's non-empty net shooting percentage across the entire season, and that can be used to develop an expected save percentage for any goaltender facing them (I also make an adjustment for each year's playoff environment, but I'll save that for the other article, too). If we know how many shots a goaltender faces, and their expected save percentage, then we can develop not only an expected number of saves for the goaltender, but the expected variance as well. Doing this requires a simplifying assumption that all shot distributions are of roughly the same quality, which we know is incorrect, but it's not horrible for the most part, and for many seasons, it's the best that we can do at the present time.
Once that's been done, we can look at the goaltender's actual performance, and calculate the number of standard deviations above (or below) average the performance was. If Ken Dryden stops 28 of 30 shots, with an expected number of saves of 25 and a standard deviation of 3, then Dryden's performance was 1.0 standard deviations above average. To make the picture more clear, I then group "average" performances (those between -0.5 standard deviations and +0.5 standard deviations), "above average" (better than that range) performances and "below average" (worse than that range) performances. In my charts, "above average" are colored green, while "below average" are colored "red". Here's an example using Dryden's game logs with the 1975 Montreal Canadiens:
|02/08/1975||W||60||24||25||7-1||/||NY Rangers||Home||Giacomin, Villemure|
In this example, Dryden played four consecutive "above average" games, then an average game, then a "below average" game. I picked this sample of games randomly, but the start of the list was the final four games of a six-game "above average" streak for Dryden. At this point, you probably aren't aware of whether a six-game "above average" streak is notable or not.
Tonight, with a 3-1 victory over visiting St. Louis, Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild has registered his twentieth consecutive appearance without a below average game. I do have one caveat here - remember when I said above that all of these "above average" and "below average" games are determined by each opponent's entire season's output? Well, in 2016-17, the season is (of course) still going on, and we've got a long way to go with Dubnyk. With that said, I don't see any of the "average" games below flipping to "below average" - it would take a shift of seismic proportions. The streak started on October 20 of this year, and here it is:
Dubnyk's streak is the longest of this season to date, and in fact, it's the longest streak since the New York Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist put together a 21-game "average or above" streak, which started in the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs against Tampa, and came to an end with a 5-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on November 25, 2015.
Dubnyk's had some long strings of great play, of course, beginning with his trade to the Wild in early 2015. Even in that period, Dubnyk would sneak in an occasional below-average game - he had five straight above average games shortly after being acquired, then a below average game, then two more above average, then a below average effort. In that first stretch on the Minnesota roster, Dubnyk's longest string without a bad game was fourteen games, ending just before the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs.
How long does Dubnyk's streak have to go in order to reach historic (by NHL purposes)? Depending upon how many games Dubnyk rests, sometime in mid-January. As of this writing, the Goaltender Home Page only has game-by-game records for goaltenders back through the 1970-71 season (this was more work than I'm making it sound here). Back through that time, these are the five longest consecutive game streaks, without a below average game, in the National Hockey League:
CONSECUTIVE AVERAGE OR BETTER GAMES, NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE, 1970-71 TO PRESENT:
I'm currently close to finishing the game logs for 1967-68 through 1969-70, and I'd ultimately like to continue it further back in time, but this gives us nearly 50 years to work with. All of these streaks can be viewed by clicking on the goaltender's biography link, then clicking on "NHL GAME LOGS" at the bottom of their biography page, then finding the matching date range. You may find it interesting to check out Pavelec's streak - he's a much maligned goaltender, but was capable of long streaks of quality performance (such as this one). Since Rogie Vachon's performance is so outstanding, I'll reprint it here.
|11/07/1974||W||59||4||36||39||5-3||/||Pittsburgh||Road||Inness||Replaced by Edwards, replaced Edwards|
Some things to notice about the streak - the first is that it started at the end of the 1973-74 regular season, continued for the entirety of Los Angeles' first-round playoff exit, and then all the way through the 1974-75 season until early January, 1975. The streak ended on January 11, in a 7-5 victory at Toronto (Vachon allowed five goals on 30 Maple Leafs shots, but still won the game). Another thing to notice is that Vachon went 0-4 in the 1974 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the New York Rangers. Vachon allowed a total of seven goals in those four games, but his Kings could only manage two goals themselves. The Kings were not swept in their series - Gary Edwards played Game Four for the Kings, and they won by a 5-1 margin. Vachon's last two playoff games were 1-0 defeats.
Other than those four playoff defeats, Vachon only lost four games during the streak - remember that to this point in their history, the Kings had never been considered a good team. This was the year where Vachon was named to the All-Star second team, and was the runner-up (to Philadelphia's Bobby Clarke) in Hart Trophy balloting. Vachon's season really was this impressive.
Another thing to notice - there's a substreak in there that's solid green (not even any average games in the mix). As it turns out, that's also an NHL record, at least from 1970 through now:
CONSECUTIVE ABOVE-AVERAGE GAMES, NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE, 1970-71 TO PRESENT:
Six goaltenders have recorded nine-game streaks over this time frame.
Well, that's literally a Hall of Fame goaltending list - Vachon, Esposito, Plante, Hasek. Vachon's streak of sixteen is listed above, and I invite you to scroll up a bit and admire it for a while. Five of the sixteen games were truly tremendous (two standard deviations above expectation), including three shutouts - one of those shutouts being a 0-0 tie on the road in Pittsburgh (here's to you, Gary Inness). As sometimes happened in the 1970s, Vachon was even bombarded with 55 shots in a 7-2 win over a Buffalo team that would later advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.
For this second streak, Dubnyk's current effort is not in consideration - he's at one following tonight's game. But as for the "no bad games" work, this is what Dubnyk's up against - so far, he's got a streak that every other goaltender in the league would envy. Another month like this, and Dubnyk's work will be worthy of the ages.