Sergei vs. Spencer: The Deeper Numbers


It is no secret that the Florida Panthers are struggling to win hockey games this year. Blame has flown everywhere, notably on Head Coach Paul Maurice. While I am not excusing Maurice’s follies, as his team as constantly blown leads by playing a style they just don’t have the personnel to pull off, and his tactics have completely neutered the team’s skill and pizzazz, I want to look at the goaltenders. Neither Sergei Bobrovsky nor Spencer Knight have had good years.

Bobrovsky has gotten a majority of the starts, especially over the past couple of months, and in his 27 appearances, of which he has started 26 of them, Bobrovsky has managed a 11-13-1 record, a 3.27 GAA and a .896 SVPCT, with one shutout. This is a far cry from his 2021-22 statline in which he started 53 of his 54 appearances, put up a 39-7-3 record, 2.67 GAA and a .913 SVPCT, shutting the door completely in three games.

On the other hand, Spencer Knight has started 18 of his 19 appearances, putting up a 9-7-3 record, a 3.05 GAA and a .906 SVPCT with a shutout. Knight’s save percentage is only a couple of points worse than his rookie campaign where in 27 starts and 32 appearances, he went 19-9-3 with a .908 SVPCT and 2.79 GAA. The big difference for Knight is the GAA. His GAA has dramatically worsened this season. Knight was on a roll, before catching a flu bug and missing several games. Since his return from the flu, his play has been knightmarish (see what I did there), and he landed on the Injured Reserve last week with an undisclosed injury, after a 5-1 loss in Dallas.

GOAL SUPPORT

There are a few interesting stats I wanted to look at. First is Goal Support. Out of 75 qualified goalies, Spencer Knight ranks 16th in Goal Support, with his team averaging 3.50 Goals for per Game when he’s in net. However, Bobrovsky ranks in the bottom half, at 40th with his team providing 3.04 Goals for per Game when he’s in net. The difference between the two isn’t unexpected, as it follows a leaguewide pattern, but it just seems interesting to me because last year the situation was reversed. Bob got more goal support than his young understudy. What does this mean? Nothing really.

CONSISTENCY

(Note: The rest of the stats will be coming from Moneypuck)

Another interesting stat is Percentage of Games Started with a Save Percentage above .900. Basically what this stat does is measures the amount of games a goalie posts a save percentage (in the individual game) above .900 and divides that by the total number of starts they have, and then factors it into a percentage. I see it a bit as a measure of a goaltender’s consistency. For example, if I’m a goalie who starts 10 games and in 7 of my games, I manage to stop over 90% of the shots I face, then my GS > .900 % would be 70%. Despite having a .896 Save Percentage, Sergei Bobrovsky ranks 28th in this stat with 57.7% of his starts having him post a save percentage above the .900 marker. Among the Top 30, Bobrovsky has the 4th worst overall save percentage. Meanwhile, only 44.4% of Spencer Knight’s starts have seen him come away with a game save percentage of .900, which puts him in 59th. This puts him in the bottom third of goalies in the league, and interestingly among the bottom third, Knight’s overall save percentage is 3rd best. You also can’t blame this on a lack of shots for Spencer or an increased amount for Bob, as they are only separated by six spots on the list for shots faced per game, with the younger goalie facing an average of one more shot per game. So what does this stat mean? Basically, Bobrovsky has been more consistent in having better starts, but his bad starts are far worse than Spencer’s bad starts. So, Bobrovsky has been the more reliable goalie on a night to night basis this season, despite his inferior numbers.

As for other stats such as Save Percentage Above Expected, Knight’s save percentage of -0.001 SVPCT above expected beats Bob’s -0.002 SVPCT above expected, which isn’t statistically significant whatsoever, so both are pretty much the same. Each guy’s save percentage should be what it is. The problem is that the two goalies are ranked 54th and 55th in those respective categories. Meanwhile, the stat of Goals Saved Above Expected follows a similar pattern. Although Knight’s -1.4 GSAx is far better than Bobrovsky’s -2.3 GSAx, both are once again back to back on the ranking sheet at 54th and 55th.

DANGER ZONES

Now let’s take a look at how both goalies fare in different circumstances measured by the level of danger they face.

Sergei Bobrovsky is 50th in Low Danger Unblocked Save Percentage at .965, while Spencer Knight is in 67th with a Low Danger Unblocked Save Percentage of .956. As for Expected LDUSP, Bob is 57th at -0.007 and Knight is 68th at -0.016. Low Danger Shots are shots that goalies are expected to save, with the median value coming to .969 SVPCT. So basically, both goalies this season have struggled with giving up softies, but Knight has been among the bottom 10 in the league.

Both Knight and Bobrovsky have been solid against medium danger scoring chances. Knight’s 28th ranked .887 MDUSP beats Bobrovsky’s 35th ranked .882 MDUSP. As for expected numbers, Knight is in 31st with a 0.008 MDUSPx, while Bobrovsky’s 0.005 MDUSPx has him in 36th. Both goalies have basically been at league average in medium danger scoring situations.

Meanwhile, Spencer Knight has been one of the best in the league against High Danger Chances with a .764 HDUSP, which puts him in 13th place. Bobrovsky’s .685 HDUSP is in 48th. As for HDUSPx, Knight is 6th in the league at 0.117 while Bob is in third with a 0.024.

This helps explain the disparity in save percentage, despite Bob being the more consistent goalie. Both goalies are poor against Low Danger shots, average in medium danger situations, but the high danger situations may explain why Knight has the edge. Knight is among the best in the league against high danger chances based on the numbers. Bob has been about league average. It may not seem that way to the average viewer, but this largely has to do with Knight’s superior positioning ability. One of Knight’s biggest weaknesses throughout his career, even when he was younger, was his consistency at paying attention, which is why he is extremely poor against low danger chances.

Why are both goalies so poor against Low Danger Unblocked Shots? Probably has to do a lot with deflections, but there really is no way to measure for that.

This is Part 1 of a series exploring why the Florida Panthers are struggling this season.

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