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8-1 Against the Unfamiliar in Net

A long time sentiment among Devils fans is that when an unfamiliar goaltender suits up to start against the Devils, it's a bad sign.  It could be the back-up goalie.  It could be an emergency replacement.  Usually they are rookies or guys still breaking into the league.  And they are playing against New Jersey, usually for the first time.  In past seasons, the Devils offense seemingly made these unknown-to-us goaltenders look like superstars.  Tons of shots, not much going in, and usually, a loss.   It's like the team plays down to the unfamiliar on offense.

However, thanks to last night's win over Ottawa and rookie Brian Elliott,  I got curious about this sentiment.  Today, I discover that, including last night's game, the Devils are 8-1 against these unfamiliar goalies this season.

I took a look at all the Devils' games this season and it certainly surprised me how well they did.  I tried to keep the definition as tight as possible.  I didn't look at in-game replacements - it's not like Tobias Stephan, Karri Ramo, Craig Anderson, or Ondrej Pavelec turned the game around for their teams.  They did not. Experienced backups like Chris Osgood, Brent Johnson, Johan Hedberg, Dany Sabourin, Patrick Lalime, and Jason Labarbera didn't count because the Devils have played them before.   And I didn't count a goalie twice - so Joey MacDonald doesn't get dinged.  All numbers from

Opp. Goalie Devils SOG Sv % Result
Joey MacDonald 29 .931 2-1, NJ
Mike Smith 38 .921 4-3, SO NJ

Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers

38 .974 2-1, EDM
Jaroslav Halak 22 .864 4-1, NJ
Jonathan Quick 28 .821 5-1, NJ
Steve Mason 28 .929 2-1, NJ
Yann Danis 36 .917 3-1, NJ
Pekka Rinne 34 .941 3-1, NJ
Brian Elliott 27 .852 4-1, NJ

The only goalie who has fulfilled our fears of the Devils' offense being owned by a relative newbie was Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers. Edmonton won that game 2-1, so he definitely made the difference in the way we all hate.  Funny thing is, that was his best game this season so far.

Yet, in the other games, while the Devils didn't eat all of them up and spit them out; they were eventually successful.  Look to the performances of MacDonald, Smith, Mason, Rinne, and Danis for examples of this.  Yet, that's all we really would like to see.  That New Jersey can get goals and get wins regardless if the opposition tries their back-up, their rookie, their young prospect, or even their regular starter.  They don't have to destroy the unfamiliar goalie like they did to Quick - the Devils just need to be effective.  Clearly, the Devils have been effective so far.  Here are some other fun facts I discovered while investigating the games:

  • Jaroslav Halak is the only one of the nine who has been replaced during the game due to performance.  Poor Halak!
  • The Devils have caused the opposition to change goalies 6 times this season: Dallas, Atlanta, Florida, Tampa Bay, Montreal, Vancouver. The Devils have also won all 6 of those games.
  • The Islanders are the only team to have started two "unfamiliars" against NJ: MacDonald and Danis.  Both due to injuries to DiPietro and MacDonald, respectively.
  • Not related to this, but the worst save percentage against the Devils this season is Henrik Lundqvist going .764 in that awesome 8-5 win.

I'd like to re-visit this concept at the end of the season to see if the Devils can keep fighting the sentiment that they play down to unfamiliar goalies.  I'd also like to check out past seasons to see how the concern actually holds up against the numbers. 

So far, it's not just good news, but further proof that this team is has really stepped it up on offense.  I'd go as far to say that it's a reason why they are doing so well this season.