2022–23 NHL goals saved above expected comparisons across the league: Week 9

All three of last year’s Vezina Trophy finalists aligned to have good to great weeks in terms of goals salved above expected, and one of them led the whole league. Which goalies excelled and which ones did not over the past seven days? Let’s get into it!

Goals saved above expected as of December 13, 2022

If you’ve seen these plots before, please feel free to scroll right down and start checking out the visualisations. Otherwise, here’s a quick explainer on how to read the GSAx charts.

One way to objectively compare goaltenders is to evaluate their goals saved above expected (GSAx). For every shot, there’s an assigned expected goal (xG) value, and as a goaltender makes or doesn’t make saves based on expected values, the difference between their xG against and their actual goals against will start varying compared to other goaltenders.

With the randomness of goaltending seemingly happening not just season over season but at times even week over week, we can plot every goaltender’s GSAx to see how they stack up compared to the rest of the league. Using data visualisation, comparing goaltenders can be done quickly with a lot of context in each chart.

Each set of charts will be weekly from Wednesday’s games through to the following Tuesday’s games. This is to capture the additional slate of games typically played on Tuesdays, for no other reason than to have the most data available in a timely, yet weekly manner.

In addition to weekly GSAx plots, season-to-date charts will also be looked at to see how goalies stack up against one another over the course of a season. This will help highlight which goaltenders are among the best and who should be frontrunners for the Vezina Trophy. All data is from

Weekly goals saved above expected plots

The plots are split into each division, and then teams are ranked in order of the highest total team GSAx to the lowest. Each goaltender will then sit along the x-axis based on their GSAx totals. The colour of each goaltender is determined based on total shots against compared to the whole league (as opposed to per division)—the more shots a goaltender faces, the brighter and yellower their point; the fewer shots, the darker and bluer.

Similarly to the shots against colour being league-wide, the x-axis per plot is also scaled league-wide, based on the two individual goaltenders with the highest and lowest GSAx. This makes visual comparisons between the four plots a bit easier.

Pacific Division goaltenders

It didn’t take long, the best goalie in the league this past week hails from the Pacific Division and it was Jacob Markstrom. After a couple of gargantuan goalie efforts, he posted a massive 5.80 GSAx to lead all goalies in the NHL. This is a huge positive improvement for him as it’s the first time in a long them that Markstrom ended with a strongly positive GSAx over a seven-day stretch. Unfortunately for the Calgary Flames, they went winless despite his strong goaltending.

Elsewhere in the Pacific, Stuart Skinner continues to put up strong numbers, and coupled with Jack Campbell being average, the Edmonton Oilers actually led the division in team GSAx. This is a big change for them too as most weeks sees Skinner being strongly positive and Jack Campbell being strongly negative. Call it a marked improvement in the small time range as Campbell, like Markstrom, has struggled more often than not, but it was enough to power them to the top of the division anyway.

In a bit of a surprise, the Vegas Golden Knights had a huge drop in GSAx as Logon Thompson deviated from his established reliable goaltending and ended up having a bad week. The Golden Knights dropped to seventh when they’re usually a top-three team in the division.

Lastly, one of the worst performances of the week went to Jonathan Quick, who somehow amassed nearly -5.0 GSAx on a light workload. It hasn’t been a good goaltending year for the Los Angeles Kings at all.

Central Division goaltenders

The Central Division had a strong showing this past week. The Dallas Stars saw their tandem of Jake Oettinger and Scott Wedgewood both ending with positive GSAx to lead the division, and several other goalies had positive GSAx as well. Filip Gustavsson had the highest individual GSAx among Central goalies, and Karel Vejmelka was the busiest goalie in the league—facing a total of 120 shots—but he once again had a strong showing.

Petr Mrazek and Connor Ingram had bad outings over the past week, but they were also joined by an unusual suspect in Connor Hellebuyck. The Winnipeg Jets’ goalie didn’t have his best week and deviated from his usual consistency. The Jets are using him as much as they can and they should hope that it isn’t fatigue already catching up. Look for him to rebound in the coming weeks (he usually does!).

Metropolitan Division goaltenders

In the Metropolitan Division, there was an interesting outcome. Three teams—the New York Rangers, Washington Capitals, and Carolina Hurricanes—all used just one goaltender each, and all three goaltenders led the division. Igor Shesterkin, Charlie Lindgren, and Pyotr Kochetkov all had strong showings.

On the other side of GSAx, Vitek Vanacek stumbled a bit and had a bad week, but backup goalie Akira Schmid was good in his performances. Vanecek would have had the division’s lowest GSAx this week, but was outdid by a returning-from-injury Elvis Merzlikins. When Merzlikins was out with his injury, his GSAx at that point was low enough to keep him at the bottom of the league with a couple of goalies toeing the line he set, but now his past week puts him definitively at the bottom.

Atlantic Division goaltenders

The Atlantic also saw several goalies perform well, as a total of seven goalies had a GSAx of over 2.50 this past week. The strong cohort of goalies were fairly busy in terms of shot volume, but Sergei Bobrovsky was one of the busiest in the division with 111 shots against.

No one in the division did particularly bad either, as Matt Murray and Jeremy Swayman’s GSAx totals weren’t that low despite being at the bottom of the Atlantic. Many other goalies in other divisions fared far worse.

Season-to-date goals saved above expected plots

Now turning to season-to-date plots, let’s check out how the season stacks up. The colour palette for the season-to-date charts is also changed to differentiate them from the weeklies.

The plots are rescaled to account for different maximum and minimum GSAx values, but as above, all four divisions are scaled together to make the season-to-date comparisons easier. The scale as of right now goes from -20 to 20 GSAx, widening the spread between the top and bottom.

Pacific Division goaltenders

Skinner is on his own now as the only consistently good goaltender in the Pacific. The recent play of Logan Thompson dropped him down a peg to widen the gap. Markstrom is positive for the first in a long time as he’s spent most of the season on the negative side of GSAx.

As it’s been most of the season, the Pacific Division goaltenders have been bad to awful, and that’s demonstrably seen with GSAx as most goalies are in fact negative. Aside from Skinner, the positive GSAx goalies are barely just. Simply put it hasn’t been a good year for Pacific goaltending and this is already factoring into the end-of-season playoff race.

Central Division goaltenders

Hellebuyck and Vejmelka are two goalies with insane workloads yet are both faring quite well. As two of the busiest goaltenders in the league (only John Gibson is busier in terms of shot volume), both having GSAx totals greater than 10.0 is very impressive.

For the Jets, Hellebuyck should be in the Vezina conversation already as he and Ilya Sorokin have traded spots all season long as top goalies in GSAx. For the Coyotes, Vejmelka’s performance is a welcomed addition for a struggling team and is a bright spot on the year.

A team with an interest set of goalies right now would be the Chicago Blackhawks, who fared better when Petr Mrazek was out with injury than they are right now. Of course giving up goals #798, #799, and #800 to Alex Ovechkin is a more forgiveable reason to have a low GSAx this week, Mrazek has struggled greatly while other Blackhawks goalies have at least been formidable in their limited appearances.

Metropolitan Division goaltenders

As of this week, the NHL’s absolute best and worst goalies in terms of GSAx comes from the same division. Sorokin finds himself alone at the top of the Metro, while Merzlikins finds himself much more alone at the bottom. The gap between Merzlikins and every other goalie in the division is sizeably large and he’s in quite the hole for GSAx. Not exactly how he wanted to return to the game.

In all, the Metro has a good mix of strong goalies who are all in the 5.0–10.0 GSAx range, which all things considered is great when looking at the division in aggregrate. It’ll be interesting to see how these teams deploy their goalies as many of the teams have a strong versus weak goalie so managing starts will start becoming a strategic point from now until the end of the season.

Atlantic Division goaltenders

The Atlantic Division has spoken and a new face has entered the race to catch Hellebuyck/Sorokin. It’s Linus Ullmark who is having a spectacular year so far. He’s been quietly racking up GSAx week over week and is now third in the league. Another good week from him and a slip up from one of the above and he’s suddenly right at the top.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have a strong showing from the tandem of Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov right now, which is welcomed news for the team given goaltending was a big wild card. We’ll see how long they can keep up their performances.

A couple of names to watch for right now both play for the Detroit Red Wings. Ville Husso’s performance has been steadily strong and has him on the cusp of hitting double digit GSAx in the positive direction, while Alex Nedeljkovic’s numbers have been disastrous. They are one of few tandems to have such a large diffential between starter and backup (along with Edmonton and Arizona), so it’ll be something to keep an eye on down the line too as Detroit hopes to remain in the playoff race.

Keepers of the crease

With GSAx—and really goaltending in general—weekly swings are completely normal. Every week will see odd names pop up as surprise performers or surprise stumbles. However at this point in the season, the cohort of consistently good or consistently bad goaltenders has become pretty clear.

The race of the Vezina already looks to now be a two-horse race, while other goalies (and even entire divisions) are still trying to figure themselves out. With the calendar soon switching over to 2023, goaltending and GSAx will have a much bigger impact on the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs race.

Check out the past GSAx charts here.

Week 1 | W2 | W3 | W4 | W5 | W6 | W7 | W8

Want to go to the next game? Take advantage of this exclusive SeatGeek code for $20 off! Use the promo code “WINCOLUMNCGY” when you checkout!

Back to top button