The goal post. When you hear the puck rattle the iron, you know there was almost a goal. The loud “CLANG” often causes one of two reactions. The first, to groan that their favorite team was close to scoring but did not. The second, to breathe a sigh of relief that their favorite team did not give up a goal. It is a matter of perspective. Still, the goal posts and the crossbar are said to be the goaltender’s best friends precisely because they can deny a goal even though the shot beat the goaltender.
Believe it or not, the NHL scorers actually record posts and crossbars in their play-by-play logs. They are a part of the “missed shot” bucket, which does make sense. Even if the puck went past the goaltender, it did not go in so, technically, the shooter missed their target. But the designation allows us to realize that the shooter was much closer than other misses. Since the scorers count it, how much the post helped or hindered the Devils in this season so far. For the many, many, many, many, many faults of 2018-19 New Jersey Devils, the posts have actually been kind to them.
Devils Hitting Posts
This is easy. The counts of posts and crossbars are accessible at NHL.com. As a team, the Devils have been credited with two crossbars and ten posts. The Devils are last in the league in terms of hitting the post and tied for the second-fewest crossbars. For perspective’s sake, the leader in crossbars is currently Vancouver with ten and posts have a four-way tie between St. Louis, Washington, Vancouver, and Columbus with 27. I do not think this is a bad thing for the Devils. If anything, you’d want their shots to go into the net, not off the metal and rebound away from it.
As a quick aside, I think the scorers may be undercounting crossbars. Possibly because several times a puck that is deflected high and out of play may have got a piece of it and it is usually only caught upon review. I do not know if scorers can correct their logs or if they or someone has access to replays for clarification. No matter, the majority of misses by a team are shots going wide anyhow.
Who has been unfortunate at hitting the frame among the Devils? Damon Severson. He leads the team with three shots off the post. For perspective’s sake, there is a lot of variation among the skaters in this category; the league leaders are Johnny Gaudreau and Alex Ovechkin with seven each. But behind those two is an array of players from Tyler Seguin (five crossbars and six posts, Dallas fans must lament his luck) to Bryan Rust to Josh Morrissey. Back to the Devils, Pavel Zacha and Kyle Palmieri have each hit the post twice and Marcus Johansson, Will Butcher, and Taylor Hall hit it once a piece. Your crossbar hitters on the Devils are Hall and Blake Coleman, with one each. Again, this may be more trivia than it says anything about a player’s shot. Perhaps as a small degree of luck if anything.
But what about the goaltenders? Keith Kinkaid, the team’s leader in goaltender appearances, has witnessed plenty of post-shots this season. How much has he benefited? I can answer that too.
Opponents Hitting Posts Against the Devils.
While NHL.com does not include posts against goaltenders or teams on their stat page, I did go through all 35 play-by-play logs and figured out how often they’ve happened with some context. For the purposes of this count, I did include crossbars since they are part of the goal frame as well. I do not think there is much value in splitting up either. It’s all red-painted 2-3/8 inch outer diameter of sometimes-goal-preventing steel anyway. I am also assuming the play-by-play logs are correct. I want to say there really five posts against Kinkaid in the 11/18 game against Philly and three posts against Mackenzie Blackwood in the 12/20 game against Columbus, but the logs say otherwise. Since the logs drive the stats at NHL.com among other sites, I am not going try to correct their counts.
Let’s get to the results. Kinkaid is your expected leader in posts against. That should be no surprise, he has appeared in many more games than Cory Schneider and Blackwood. What is a surprise is that he has averaged a post against per game this season.
Seriously, the Devils goaltenders have collectively benefited from more posts denying goals than thirty other teams this season (sorry Vancouver fans, you’ve hit the frame 37 times). And they have still been lit up like a Christmas tree this season. Posts and crossbars do not factor into save percentages since they are classified as missed shots. So despite 29 times the goal itself helped Kinkaid not be beaten, he still is sitting well below league average at even strength save percentage. Despite the post helping Schneider five times, his percentages remain firmly at an abysmal level. Blackwood, well, he’s new, I will not go into it.
What is astonishing is that the Devils as a team have averaged over a post per game and Kinkaid has been the main drive of that. I included how many games per appearance did they have a shot go past them but hit the frame instead. A majority of the team’s games have had it, again largely driven by Kinkaid. We can say that a shot against hitting the frame is a regular occurrence with this team. And, sadly, that it has not always helped. This does not mean each game will have one. Just like with goal scored or points earned, the per-game average is just that. A game-by-game log shows some nights with more than others to make up for the nights without any.
Interestingly, Schneider has not been in net for more than one post-shot in a game this season. But Kinkaid has had multiple events of shots hitting iron in five games. Two of which featured four posts: October 27 against Florida and November 15 against Philadelphia. In that Florida game, Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Huberdeau hit the red on the same power play in the first period. Later in that night, while down three goals, Aleksander Barkov and Keith Yandle each struck metal within the same minute in the period. As for the Philly game, all four post-shots happened in the first period. Travis Sanheim hit it early when it was 0-0, Michael Laughton hit it a little after New Jersey went up one, Nolan Patrick busted a post during a power play late in the period, and Travis Konecny hit it after said power play. I’d argue that was a lot more fortuitous than the Florida game.
Notably, the Devils won those two games. However, the other three nights where the opposition hit the post multiple times were not so successful. They were against Detroit on November 17 (3 posts), against Florida on November 26 (3 posts, Mike Hoffman’s initial goal in OT was called up back and recorded hitting the post), and against Winnipeg on December 1 (2 posts). So even though they may be seen as lucky breaks, they have not guaranteed wins.
In terms of timing, the majority of the team’s 36 posts against have come in the first period. Only five in the second period, four in the third period, and two in the fourth (overtime) period. That is a nice bit of trivia. Also: most of the posts against have come while the Devils have been leading in games. Especially for Kinkaid.
Kinkaid has received the good fortune of the goal frame helping him out while the Devils were not losing. Those have played at least a small role in terms of securing plenty of wins. The 16 came in eleven different games where the Devils went 9-0-2. (By the way, the two for Schneider ended with a loss in Detroit and a shootout loss in Anaheim.) The nine in tied-goal situations, well, those games ended at 2-0-3. Kinkaid has only seen one post against him while trailing and it happened yesterday when Alexander Wennberg hit it in the first period during a power play. As for the score trailing situations, the posts while trailing, well, the Devils went 0-7-1 with the lone exception being the 11/23 game with the Isles where they lost in overtime. No one rose above in that regard and only Blackwood saw multiple posts in one game (his only start so far) while trailing.
I think posts and crossbars are more of a curiosity than a conclusion about how things are going with the team. I suspect that the Devils goaltenders have been fortunate in this regard, especially for Kinkaid. This may mean that the Devils’ already poor goaltending could have been even worse.
What’s more is that the posts have been very lucky for Kinkaid as a majority of his 29 posts against happened to maintain whatever lead the Devils had at that time or to not break a deadlock. This only adds to the fortune, which is odd to write for the #1 goaltender of the current last place team in the Eastern Conference. I cannot say for sure whether Kinkaid has benefited more than most other goalies when it comes to shots against him hitting iron. I suspect he’s up there as he has seen and heard more shots hitting the frame than the shooters from some entire teams this season - including his own, the Devils. While Kinkaid should get the focus, Schneider and Blackwood in limited action has received a little post-luck as well.
Again, I think this may be more of “this is interesting” than “this is a reason why the Devils are what they are.” I would caution against expecting the Devils to be bailed out by the steel throughout the rest of the season. If nothing else, they are not frequent enough occurrences in general to expect it often even though the Devils goalies have witnessed over a post against per game. Few teams in the NHL have registered that themselves and the Devils’ own shooters have combined for just 12 shots hitting the frame, or an average of 0.34 per game, so far this season. Depending on the perspective, it can be a great stroke of luck or a bad break. But posts alone have not really turned wins into losses, losses into wins, or seasons becoming better or worse.
They have, however, just been frequent enough to cause me to write a post about posts because I’ve seen many posts and others note the posts and may be interested in a post for posts for and against Our Favorite Team. Thank you for reading and have a happy holiday season. Tomorrow will be less about posts and more about hockey outside of the NHL.