Five years ago, I decided to start taking a closer look at the goals against Martin Brodeur. I did it first for the 2010 postseason. I didn't think Brodeur deserved much criticism for the five-game loss to the Second Rate Rivals. Looking at the video of the goals against, I was right. I decided to expand that for the whole season to see which ones Brodeur should've stopped and didn't and which ones weren't so soft. I set a definition, tried my best to have it fit, identified where the goal beat Brodeur, and the review went on. In following years, I began to tag skaters who made an egregious error on the play that led to the goal as well as whether the shot taken was a scoring chance. Over these five years, I've re-watched 659 goals against the legendary goaltender. I can confidently say that after going through the 96 he allowed in this past season, he simply stunk for the New Jersey Devils in 2013-14.
Of course, you didn't need a series of posts reviewing these goals month-by-month. His save percentage has fallen in recent seasons, which really says it all. Sure, he had a not-bad even strength save percentage in 2013 of 91.9%. But his overall save percentage was much poorer 90.1%. While the penalty kill definitely improved, his even strength save percentage dropped to 90.6% in this past season. His overall percentage in 2013-14: 90.1%. If Brodeur was any better in 2013-14, it was marginal at best. For a team that doesn't score many goals, that's a massive weight on the team. Given that Brodeur is about to turn 42, there's really no reason to think he'll get better. History has shown that there haven't been many 40+ year old goalies in the modern era and usually for good reason. By the percentages alone, I don't see how any can conclude that his play was anything but not good.
I hope my continuing annual casual qualitative analysis of goals against really hammers home the point. Not only did Brodeur have a poor save percentage, he simply gave up a lot of bad goals. The main point of a statement by Jacques Plante that I quoted in the very first season summary back in 2010 still applies. The majority of goals against aren't necessarily the goalie's fault. On top of that, I would add that goaltenders do make mistakes and have bad nights. However, Brodeur had a lot of more of them than he has had in prior seasons. Last summer, I concluded with a rise in soft goals compared to total goals allowed, Brodeur really should be the #2 option in New Jersey. Instead, he started 39 games as that rising trend blew up. Consider this summary as a supplement to the reality that Brodeur simply wasn't good in 2013-14.
The Month-by-Month Posts
If you want to see the breakdown of how the review went by month or a more detailed explanation of what this all is, please check out the following posts:
- October 2013: 6 games played, 18 goals allowed
- November 2013: 9 games played, 15 goals allowed
- December 2013: 8 games played, 19 goals allowed
- January 2014: 5 games played, 18 goals allowed
- March 2014: 9 games played, 22 goals allowed; April 2014: 2 games played, 4 goals allowed
The Skater Errors
Let's start with the skater error summaries. I was a lot more rigorous in marking which player on the New Jersey Devils made a mistake on a play for a goal against. My criteria was that it had to have been an egregious error. That if the player did something different on the play, such as guarding his man or moving the puck somewhere else, then the goal against would not have happened. In years past, I felt that I was tagging skaters for not picking up their man, assuming that would have prevented the play. I decided that was a big assumption, so I didn't go with it unless it was obvious. I also did this to avoid guessing who should have an opponent. So if there's any area I could be off in, then it's probably this one.
In total, I counted 30 goals against Brodeur that had at least one skater making a mistake. There were four where I tagged two skaters and that was the limit on number of skaters per error. I didn't count any bench failures, such as a botched line change. I counted the most in the middle of the season. I honestly expected more to come in March since Brodeur gave up the most goals that month and the team itself flailed during the middle part of it. But I didn't per the new criteria. In terms who made the errors, here's the list.
It was pretty spread out among the players in front of Brodeur. The multi-error means that the goal against in question had more than one player at notable fault on the play. Among forwards, no one had a whole lot of massive mistakes. Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias, and Michael Ryder do the lead the way but with only two errors each, it's hard to really make a big deal out of it. Especially in Jagr's and Elias' cases, since the play so much.
Over on defense, I wasn't too surprised. Jon Merrill up there with Marek Zidlicky. Merrill was a rookie and made some poor decisions here and there. It's not uncommon that when a defenseman makes a mistake, it results with the puck in his own net. Eric Gelinas came close to joining him. Zidlicky has played a lot last season and often had the puck on his stick. Combined with his gambling ways and proclivity for taking restraining fouls, I wasn't too surprised to note that he made some costly mistakes. As for Andy Greene, again, he plays more than any other defenseman and he's bound to make an error here or there. Still, like the forwards, it's hard to get riled up over a few errors. The biggest surprise to me was Bryce Salvador only getting tagged. I wouldn't start making any conclusions that he wasn't so bad. His analytics remain poor and I suspect I'm going to shake my head at #24 a bit more when I do Cory Schneider's goals against review later this summer.
The 96 Goals Against Martin Brodeur by Location
In terms of where Brodeur was beaten, that infernal five-hole came well ahead of everyone. Brodeur got torched between his legs a lot in October and March. Those two months alone match the number of times Brodeur was beaten high, glove side all season. Not every goal between the legs is a soft one. Some were deflections, some came on one-timers, and some go through as Brodeur was in motion, which will naturally make some space between the pads. But plenty of the bad ones were through the five-hole.
Overall, Brodeur was beaten on the left and right sides almost evenly. 35 of them went by his left, 33 of them went by his right. Height-wise, it was the lower shots that prevailed. Those pucks along the ice or just above it got past Brodeur 46 times, compared to the 18 mid-height goals and 32 high goals. With 26 going through his legs, it's clear what drove that total. The takeaway here was that opponents didn't necessarily have to go pick a corner, though they were able to do so. They found more success going low on Brodeur.
The Soft Goals Allowed by Brodeur in 2013-14
Here's the basic summary of the soft goals Brodeur allowed in the 2013-14 season, along with how many goals against came from the scoring chance (SC) area (a.k.a. crease out to the faceoff dots, up to the top of the circle):
That is not a typo. I counted 41 soft goals against Brodeur last season. He started off the season really poorly. He improved but not all that much. Even in his best month, November, a third of the goals allowed were ones he probably wished he had back. Over 40% of the goals Brodeur allowed in 2013-14 were ones I think he should have done much better on. I'm not saying the expectation should be zero goals. Again, goalies will make mistakes and have bad games. In Brodeur's case, he had plenty of those.
On top of that, look at the goals allowed from shots taken in a scoring chance location. Just over half of the goals allowed came from there. Not every goal against from outside that zone was necessarily bad. Screens, deflections, and so forth applies. Yet, it's a bit shocking to me that opponents were able to succeed from outside that area at a significant percentage. It would be great if we knew how many shots Brodeur faced from a scoring chance area to figure out his actual save percentage. Numerärt Övertag had a good estimation of what that may be back in late March. We may differ in method of what's soft, but it points to the same conclusion: Brodeur wasn't good last season.
Breaking it down by situation reveals where the most of the damage happened: even strength.
Compared to last season, this shows that Brodeur was much better on the penalty kill. Yet, the majority of the soft ones happened at evens. Nearly half of all of his even strength goals against were soft ones. He's had two months (I'm excluding April) where half or more were soft. He came close to it in two other months. Since the majority of the games are at even strength, this was shocking to me when I put it together.
Skater errors or shots taken in a scoring chance area doesn't necessarily excuse the goaltender on a goal against. They certainly didn't in 2013-14 for Brodeur. Over half of the soft goals did come from that slot and surrounding region. Over 40% of the soft goals did include a Devil making an error that led to the play happening. These percentages are improvement over last season; but last season only had 17 soft goals. With 41, it's still ugly.
Five-Year Comparison: Brodeur's Soft Goals
Here's where it gets worse. Allow me to repeat myself from earlier in this post. Last summer, I concluded that Brodeur should be limited in his usage given a worringing three-season trend. He was not limited and that trend blew up. If you thought 41 out of 96 goals against being soft alone was bad, it's down right terrible next to his last four seasons.
In the prior four seasons plus playoffs, Brodeur didn't even come close to having even 30% of the goals allowed be soft. He leaped over that mark in 2013-14. He still did when you just compare regular seasons:
While I can't tell you what is or isn't a good percentage of soft goals to non-soft goals, I'm pretty confident that it's not over 40%. If we consider 2009-10 as Brodeur's last good season (overall save percentage of 91.6%, no season past 91% since then), then about 20% appeared to be a good benchmark. Brodeur from this past season doubled that. Even if you disagree with some of the goals against that I called soft and the true number is around 35, then the percentage of soft goals would still be much higher than his other seasons.
The other context from these two charts make it even worse. Brodeur has played a smaller percentage of the season in 2013-14 than he has in the prior four seasons. There were fewer skater errors, a higher percentage of goals against from outside the scoring area, and not only more soft goals but a higher percentage of them. Whereas Brodeur's save percentage hasn't consistently gone down, this shows me that Brodeur really hasn't gotten better with age. This shows a downfall. It's at a point where shaking your head at the Brodeur for a hideous goal against has happened well over a third of the time. It's awful.
Throughout the offseason, I was planning to a do a few posts for the impending unrestricted free agents from the New Jersey Devils roster. The main question to be asked was whether you, the fan, would want them back. Jaromir Jagr re-signing with the team undercut my original plan. So does this review. As I was putting the summary together, it was clear to me that I don't see any objective reason why he should return. His save percentages were low and have been for years. The eye test would show a goalie who's clearly guessing more and more, and not coming out right as often. On top of that, he's given up a lot of soft goals in this past season. With Brodeur turning 42 later this week, he's not going to get much better. Not to a point where I think he wouldn't give up a bad goal per three goals against over a season.
Throughout the review, I openly pondered how he played so much considering what I found. Yes, he got three more wins than the superior-in-save-percentage Cory Schneider. He had a whopping 19. Woo. But the performances belie the results, they didn't always lead to them. Moreover, there was definitely a sentimental component at play. Whether it was starting in what was then an important rivalry game in the Bronx or being called a "No. 1 goalie" along with Schneider, Brodeur kept getting chances to get in and play. Sometimes, he would do well, but as this review showed, that meant a lot of pain along the way. This is the result of all that pain and it's partially why the Devils were done by game #82.
I fully understand and appreciate what Brodeur has meant for the franchise and fans all around the world. I understand that some feel I'm being too harsh But the game doesn't care about that. The present of sport doesn't care about the past. Whether through casual qualitative analysis or hard save percentages or even observation, Brodeur was not at all good. I find that all rationalizations, be it results or which goalies the team faced, are not convincing. Simply, if his name wasn't Brodeur, this wouldn't be such a difficult decision among the fans. I do not think that a goalie with over 40% of the goals he allowed being ones he should have stopped in conjunction with the league's 71st best overall save percentage would want to be brought back. But because he's Brodeur, there will be fans who want him to stay.
I am not one of them. In conclusion of this summary, this year's review, and all of my thoughts and conversations about him, I don't want Brodeur back. Not at a minimum salary. Not with a guarantee of only playing if Schneider is injured and only in back-to-back situations. Brodeur at age 41-42 is not the Brodeur of my youth, the Brodeur that ranked up there with the Roys and Haseks of the world, and the Brodeur I loved watching for so many years. His return would continue to provide an unnecessary distraction. And when he would play, we would need to pray the team can magically score a lot of goals to minimize the damage if/when Brodeur lets in a bad one. Whether he retires or plays elsewhere doesn't make a difference to me. The latter would not diminish his legacy anymore in my eyes than being a massive risk to put in the crease for the team I love and support for another season. The past will not change. The accomplishments will remain. But this summary further shows to me the Devils can ill afford to have #30 return. That may be putting it more heavily than intended, but when the video coincides with the stats, it must be made as clear as possible.
I'd like to know your take. What's your opinion on Brodeur after reading though this year's summary? Were you surprised to see the percentage of soft goals shoot up so high compared to previous seasons? How off do you think I was regarding skater errors? Did it change your mind one way or another? Did it match up with what you thought? Would you want Brodeur back under any circumstances, and if so, why? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Brodeur in the 2013-14 season. Cory Schneider's review will be later this summer. Thank you for reading.