2022–23 NHL goals saved above expected comparisons across the league: Week 18

With the NHL’s All-Star Game being sandwiched by bye weeks where the league just saw very few games played overall, this week’s goals saved above expected update includes three calendar weeks’ worth of games for a bigger update. That said, most goalies only played somewhere between one to for games. Only seven goalies played five games and two more played six.

Let’s see what the NHL goaltending picture looks like now, midway through February!

Goals saved above expected as of February 14, 2023

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

Over the past three weeks, the GSAx range seen goes from -10.0 to 10.0. This simply means somewhere in the NHL, at least one goalie had a GSAx lower than -5.0 and at least one had a GSAx higher than 5.0.

Right away, we see that Pheonix Copley (5.95 GSAx) managed to post a strong string of games. However, his partner Jonathan Quick (-3.34) was ranked 67th out of 70 goalies, putting the Los Angeles Kings at the middle of the pack.

Yes, Quick was fourth last in the league with his GSAx, and we see in the same division two goalies who did worse: Collin Delia (-6.94) and Spencer Martin (-7.35). Good times haven’t been had in Vancouver as their goaltending situation remains dire. Of the seven games they’ve played in this range, six of them saw at least four goals against. Yikes.

Central Division goaltenders

Despite the larger game count, every goaltender in the Central Division was tight together. No one stood out for good or bad reasons as all 16 Central goalies were playing close to expected—some were above, some below, but all were close to the breakeven mark.

The highest GSAx in the division was Filip Gustavsson (3.52) and the lowest was Petr Mrazek (-3.07). Overall it was a pretty pedestrian few weeks for the Central.

Metropolitan Division goaltenders

The Metropolitan had several standout goalies. Led by Carter Hart (7.28), the division had a strong showing with Ilya Sorokin (5.04), Semyon Varlamov (4.95), and Casey DeSmith (4.60) also in the fray.

On the flip side, no one did that poorly either. Frederik Andersen (-2.68) was the worst performer, and that value for GSAx isn’t all too bad.

One goalie who deserves a callout is Elvis Merzlikins. While he still owns one of the worst GSAx on the season, he managed to post positive numbers for the first time all year, even though it’s just marginally positive.

Atlantic Division goaltenders

Finally, the Atlantic had a fascinating three weeks. The Ottawa Senators led the division in terms of overall GSAx, as all four—emphasis on all four—of the goalies who dressed for them posted positive values. Anton Forsberg (3.21) was unfortunately injured, and so too was Cam Talbot (1.38). That paved the way for Kevin Mandolese (2.22) and Mads Sogaard (0.05) to contribute. The Senators’ team GSAx of 6.86 was second in the league only to the New York Islander’s 9.99.

The top overall goalie in the NHL was Sergei Bobrovsky (8.35). In 144 shots against, he only allowed seven goals. In contrast, another Atlantic Division goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy (4.64) had a great few weeks too. In his six appearances he faced 221 shots for the most in the NHL over this span, and allowed 15 goals against.

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 has extended to now span -30.0 to 30.0 GSAx. This is the biggest span so far this season, with 35.0 GSAx on the positive end and -30.0 GSAx on the negative end. That means among all goaltenders, at least one goalie has more than 30.0 GSAx, and another goalie has less than -25.0. This is the first time this season that the +30.0 GSAx threshold has been surpassed.

Pacific Division goaltenders

There’s a new worst goalie in the league and it’s Spencer Martin (-26.10 year-to-date GSAx). His play has dropped him lower and lower and now he’s dropped to a new low. Week in and week out, the Pacific Division goalies are clearly the worst among their peers. You can see with just how many goalies are on the lefthand side of the chart that most goalies are performing well below expected.

In the division, John Gibson (-6.18) is the busiest goalie, having now faced 1,355 shots against. However, whether goalies are busy or not in this division, far too many are below or around the zero GSAx threshold. Even those who are positive aren’t positive by much, other than Stuart Skinner (9.19) who remains the division’s leader.

Central Division goaltenders

The Central shows a stark contrast to the Pacific by having almost the opposite outcome. Most goalies in the division have positive GSAx and by significant margins too. While there are always going to be goalies in the negative in any given year, the Central is propped up by the three standout performances of Connor Hellebuyck (26.79), Jake Oettinger (23.62), and Juuse Saros (21.88).

Not only that, but there’s a second tier of goalies in the division who are doing more than respectably well too, which includes Gustavsson (11.43), Alexandar Georgiev (10.16), and Karel Vejmelka (9.27).

On the low end, Mrazek (-12.39) bottoms out for the division, with Jordan Binnington (-10.14) not too far ahead.

Metropolitan Division goaltenders

The first goalie to surpass the +30.0 GSAx mark is Ilya Sorokin (32.92). He’s been steadily improving his total with each passing week and now has a pretty sizeable lead for best in the NHL. What’s interesting about the Metropolitan though is just how far everyone else is behind Sorokin. He has more than double the GSAx of the next closest goalies in the division as there a trio of goalies who come in a distant second through fourth.

As mentioned early, Merzlikins (-25.33) had a positive GSAx performance over the past three weeks, which finally pulled him from being worst in the NHL to second worst. It’s lonely territory down at the bottom and it’ll be hard to climb out of the hole overall, but at least it wasn’t a perpetual run at the bottom for Merzlikins.

On the season, the Metro goalies have done well where the majority of the goalies have positive GSAx, and those who are negative aren’t too far below the breakeven mark,

Atlantic Division goaltenders

The Atlantic is currently the most balanced division. There are two strong performances from Linus Ullmark (25.44) and Vasilevskiy (17.94), but pretty much everyone else falls into a respectable range. Sam Montembeault (11.45) and Ilya Samsonov (9.75) have strong numbers in the division, while the rest of the goalies are closer to expected that not.

On the low side among active goalies, it’s Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (-8.28). He’s the lowest in the division but is still managing to not be in the negative double digits. Aside from the outliers, the Atlantic most of the goalies performing the closest to expected out of all four divisions.

The final stretch

The NHL is quickly into its final stretch as the number of games remaining quickly diminishes. Goaltending performances are critical for those teams who remain in the playoff race, especially for the highly contested Western Conference.

At this point in the season, it’s pretty clear which goalies are struggling and which have earned their teams more wins than not, but with the pressure to make the playoffs looming, that could all change. We’ll see how the goaltending picture shapes up overall soon enough.

Check out the past GSAx charts here.

Week 1 | W2 | W3 | W4 | W5 | W6 | W7 | W8 | W9 | W10 | W11 | W12 | W13 | W14 | W15

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