Not Another Goalie Post

Semyon Varlamov

Photo credit: Mitchell Layton

Okay, so it is another goalie post. Still here? Cool, cause nothing gets the Twitterverse popping like a Team Neuvy/Team Varly debate. Plus, there is some breaking news here on RMNB: The Greenberg Bus is now gliding along the Varly Highway. It’s no disrespect to Neuvy, as the Caps are blessed with two young, legitimately-below-average netminders, but Varly has now taken over the number one spot in my heart. How did this happen? Let me explain.

Their play has both been solid over the last few games, but it has been Varlamov who has really stepped it up, especially in the game’s first two periods.

First 2 Periods SCA GA Save%
Varly 169 20 0.882
Neuvy 261 42 0.839

SCF = scoring chances for, SCA = scoring chances against, GF = goals for, GA = goals against, SC% = Percentage of scoring chances in Caps favor, Convert% = Goals scored off chances for, Save% = Goals prevented off chances against

Right out the gate, the Russian has given the Caps their best chance to win, and this includes that clunker versus the Rangers where he saw seven goals hit the twine on the night.

Now let’s look at their performance for the 3rd period and overtime, and also include games where it’s tied in the 3rd/OT or one of the teams lead by a goal in the third (“late and close”).

3rd and OT Late and close
Player SCA GA Sv% SCA GA Sv%
Varly 76 13 0.829 45 7 0.844
Neuvy 120 20 0.833 79 12 0.848

Similar results.

How you perform when your team is leading late in the game (up by a goal in the 3rd) is probably among the most valuable of contributions — especially when you’ve lost a few late or in OT.

Up By One in 3rd SCF SCA GF GA SC% Convert% Sv%
Varly 20 20 3 2 50.0% 15.0% 90.0%
Neuvy 34 31 6 6 52.3% 17.6% 80.6%

I think this helps put to bed any myth that the Caps “play harder for Varly.” Both see the same number of chances go their way, and convert chances to goals at almost the same rate, but Varlamov keeps more pucks out of the net, and that’s where it counts.

Tied after two?

Tied after 2 SCA GA Sv%
Varly 84 7 0.917
Neuvy 106 21 0.802

Again, the Russian is showing some clutch play while Neuvirth is doing his best swiss cheese impersonation.


Varly 6 2 0.667
Neuvy 10 1 0.900

First occurrence of a real difference, but small sample sizes make this tough to evaluate.

Down by one goal in the 3rd?

Down by 1 in 3rd SCF SCA GF GA SC% Convert% Sv%
Varly 3 6 0 3 33.3% 0.0% 50.0%
Neuvy 34 21 7 1 61.8% 20.6% 95.2%

Yuch. This is perhaps the situations where fans think the Caps “play harder” for Varlamov. But Varly’s is too small sample size to make any firm conclusions.

To summarize, Varlamov gives Washington the best chance to win during the first 2 periods – tied or otherwise – and when the Caps are leading in the 3rd. Keep it out of OT and it should be smooth sailing. Don’t get me wrong; I am still a fan of Neuvy, but as we head into the second half of the season I think it is time to ride Varlamov until his groin falls off. Wait, what?

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  • robertmorrisgoalie1

    I’ll be curious to see Varly’s numbers with his switch back to Vaughn pads from Reebok. He stuck with Reebok gloves though after his stints with both vaughn and bauer.

  • BobbyG

    Oh no, not another goalie thread Mr. Bill! I mean Mr. Greenberg!

    Look, I enjoy stats–up to a point. But the way Varly and Neuvy are compared depends on how the rest of the team is doing period by period. Or is it the other way around, is it the goalie’s performance that affects how the rest of the team is performing? Is this a chicken-or-egg situation set up for us here?

    Speaking of eggs, I liken the breakdown of stats as similar to breaking down a cake into its ingredients components. Do we still have a cake without the eggs, flour, or sugar? Do we still have a game if we take out one or more periods? I guess what I’m asking is, is it realistic to compare goalies on the basis of separate ingredients (periods) rather than their overall performance?

    I checked for goalie stats, which tells me why the BobbyG bus is also gliding along the Varly Highway, but not for the reasons Neil mentions, and despite the fact that Varly has appeared in fewer games than Neuvy:

    Varly is tied at #2 in GAA with Corey Crawford with 2.14, behind only Tim Thomas; Neuvy is #23 with 2.61

    Varly is #3 in SV% at .927, behind only Tim Thomas and Ondrej Pavelec; Neuvy is #25 at .920

    BobbyG, playing the “Ghostbusters” theme and singing “Who you gonna call?”

  • Neil – RMNB

    @BobbyG We can certainly look at how they do overall (which I have in a few of the scoring chance posts) but playing in the 1st with a 3 goal lead is way different than being up one in the 3rd or leading throughout (like the NYR game). Google “shooting to the score” and you will see that when a team has a lead their shot rate goes down while the trailing team sees theirs go up – as they bomb away at the net looking for some magic.

  • Peter Hassett

    Neil, hi.

    Peter here. From the website.

    Taking for granted that our goalies are legitimately below average, do you think a roster change should be made before the deadline?


    p.s. “VENISON”

  • Neil – RMNB


    No. I am perfectly OK rolling the dice in the post season with either of these goalies. It is the offense that will make or break this team.

  • Rockin’ The Red in VA

    Varly is Gnarly! Go CAPS!

  • BobbyG

    @Neil: thanks for helping me understand the stats better, especially your suggestion to Google “shooting to the score.” You helped me understand and appreciate this aspect of hockey a lot more.

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