While it is not a new concept, the phrase “getting goalied” has seemingly come up more often in recent seasons. In using goalie as a verb, it is referencing an opposition goaltender just having a great game to shut down the team. It is often said or written with a sense of frustration. Frustration that your favorite team has not scored a goal. That they have done a lot right, perhaps everything possible, to get a goal but the one man responsible for keeping the other team from scoring is keeping them from getting a goal. Or a second goal. Frustrating because there is little that the team can do to beat a goaltender who is just having a great game in doing their job exceptionally well. Of course, this does not apply when your favorite team’s goalie does it to an opposing team.
Among the People Who Matter, this has been a bit of a concern for the New Jersey Devils this season. The Devils have goalied quite a few times this season. The man in the headline photo is Adin Hill of the Las Vegas Golden Knights. On March 3, he arguably goalied the Devils harder than anyone else has done this season. Arguably more than anyone in the 2021 and 2021-22 seasons too. While that game went to a shootout for a loss, it was beyond frustrating to see Hill just stun the Devils players, Devils coaches, and the People Who Matter with stop after stop after stop. Even on shots that would have beaten many others, including “name” goaltenders. However, what is the argument that that was the most the Devils got goalied? When can we objectively define when a team is actually getting goalied? How often has the 2022-23 Devils been goalied? How often have the Devils goalied other teams? And, conversely, how often have the Devils lit up opposing goalies? I will attempt to answer all of those in this post.
An Objective Definition for Getting Goalied
Rather that remark anytime a goaltender makes a bunch of saves is when the Devils or any other team is getting goalied, an objective definition is needed. A rule, if you will. It may not be perfect or without exception; yet, it will give us a foundation as to when we can say a team has been goalied. My interpretation is that for a goaltender to be frustratingly good in the crease, then the goaltender must play exceptionally well. Not just average. Not even just good. But excellent.
What that does not mean is that the Devils or any other team is losing. It is possible in today’s NHL for a team to be goalied and still pull out a result. After all, the Devils lost in a shootout, 3-4, on March 3 to Adin Hill and the Golden Knights. If we cannot claim that game as the Devils being goalied, then the term has no meaning.
What that also does not mean is that the Devils or a team has to reach a set number of shots on net, or get denied of goals by posts or from external sources like official reviews and coach’s challenges. A great goaltender performance does not need to make a set number of saves to be great. Whether Vitek Vanecek shutting out Carolina required 32 or 22 saves misses the point that he had to be great to do so either way. A shot hitting the post is bothersome but is correctly marked as a missed shot since, well, it did not go into the net and would not if there was no goalie. An official review or coaching challenging taking a goal away wipes the scoring play from the game, so it would not be reflected in any stats. The latter two can impact how a game goes but not how a goalie plays.
I think the best metric we can use for whether a team is objectively getting goalied or not is expected goals. While shots on net carry their own value, they can take place from wherever in the zone. With an expected goals model, we can at least know how valuable the shot is based largely on the location of the shot. Likewise, we can know how valuable a save was based on how much value the shot had. It is not a perfect model, but it can show how a team can attack quite well and get denied by a goaltender who happens to be better that night. Far better than a simple save percentage, which counts all shots equally.
The formula for this is also really basic too. It would simply be Goals For minus Expected Goals For. GF minus xGF. The lower that number is, the more a team is getting goalied. The question remains: how much would it be for it to be an exceptional performance from a goaltender?
I decided on a difference of at least -2; two fewer goals scored than expected. A good goaltending performance can deny one more goal than expected. When it gets above two, then it speaks to how good of a night the goaltender is having on the rink. While no one can score, say, 0.3 of a goal, all of those shots and attempts add up. It is hard and not common for a goaltender to make enough saves to allow two fewer goals than what is expected. Likewise, it is hard and not common for a team to attack well enough and generate scoring chances such that they have a high xGF and score two (or more) fewer actual goals than that. It is not a perfect model, but it can point to the frustration factor that goes with it.
I can be convinced of a better way to define it, but I think GF minus xGF with the difference of -2 or less being a good place to start. It is also a quick method to check using the game-by-game data at Natural Stat Trick.
How Many Times Have the Devils Been Goalied in 2022-23?
From the Devils’ game-by-game data for all situations at Natural Stat Trick as of March 15, 2023, the Devils have been goalied nine times this season. Here are those nine games, in order of the most goalied to the least among the nine:
- March 3, 2023 - Devils 3, Las Vegas 4 (shootout) - GF: 3, xGF: 6.43, Difference: -3.43; Goaltender: Adin Hill (47 saves on 50 shots) - Game Recap
- December 20, 2022 - Devils 1, Carolina 4 - GF: 1, xGF: 4.28, Difference: -3.28; Goaltender: Pytor Kochetkov (37 saves on 38 shots) - Game Recap
- February 21, 2023 - Devils 2, Montreal 5 - GF: 2, xGF: 5.21, Difference: -3.21; Goaltender: Samuel Montembeault (48 saves on 50 shots) - Game Recap
- December 28, 2022 - Devils 1, Boston 3 - GF: 1, xGF: 4.11, Difference: -3.11; Goaltender: Linus Ullmark (30 saves on 31 shots) - Game Recap
- December 15, 2022 - Devils 1, Philadelphia 2 - GF: 1, xGF 4, Difference: -3; Goaltender: Carter Hart (48 saves on 49 shots) - Game Recap
- December 13, 2022 - Devils 1, Dallas 4 - GF: 1, xGF: 3.53, Difference: -2.53; Goaltender: Scott Wedgewood (35 saves on 36 shots) - Game Recap
- November 23, 2022 - Devils 1, Toronto 2 - GF 1, xGF: 3.49, Difference: -2.49; Goaltender: Goalpost Movin’ Matt Murray (34 saves on 35 shots) - Game Recap
- October 15, 2022 - Devils 2, Detroit 5 - GF: 2, xGF: 4.36, Difference -2.36; Goaltender: Alex Nedeljkovic (37 saves on 39 shots) - Game Recap
- March 9, 2023 - Devils 3, Washington 2 (shootout) - GF: 2, xGF: 4.01, Difference: -2.01; Goaltender: Darcy Kuemper (38 saves on 40 shots) - Game Recap
I think that the definition yielded only nine games out of 67 of the Devils season shows that it does happen but not so much so that the definition was too broad. It also helps that in all of these games the Devils definitely generated quite a bit of offense. It was the goaltender who was the key reason for the result in that game. Most of all, that Adin Hill game on March 3 was the worst and that fills me with more confidence in this objective definition. (Aside: That xGF of 6.43 is the fifth highest in the entire NHL by a team this season)
Incidentally, it does cut out some edge cases as any standard would. Such as the season opener in Philly (-1.79 differential) or the Devils’ first game against San Jose where Kaapo Kahkonen was a Problem for the Devils (-1.63 differential). Ultimately, I think that it is fair to deny those games of the “goalied” term as the xGF shows that the Devils did not generate an exceptional amount to warrant an exceptional goaltending performance. Similarly, the recent 1-4 loss to Tampa Bay was not a game where the Devils got goalied. Andrei Vasilevskiy was good but not so great to have been a major issue for the Devils. Not to mention the four posts and one disallowed goal would probably be enough to grant an exception if was enough.
As one may have expected by the term, the Devils nearly lost all nine games. They lost in a shootout in Las Vegas. They won a shootout in DC in the final entry on this list. Some of these losses were quite close. Two were regulation losses by one goal; and the three disallowed goals on November 23 against Toronto, while not a factor in this calculation, added to the frustration feeling that was very real by the People Who Matter. The losses to Dallas and Boston were boosted by empty netters, making them close games in disguise.
As a final point, consider the goalies who did this to the Devils. Some of these you probably were not familiar with such as Adin Hill, who spent most of his young career in the West as a depth goalie, and Sam Montembeault. Others have had more of a pedigree such as Darcy Kuemper, Matt Murray who was rather good for a bit before his current rep, Carter Hart, and Linus Ullmark. What is notable among them is Pytor Kochetkov. The hot rookie for Carolina has not been so hot in recent affairs. In fact, the Devils exposed his five-hole in a 3-0 win just this past Sunday. What it means here is that just because someone goalied the Devils earlier in the season does not guarantee that they will do it again. It also means that any goalie you may not be familiar with will not always be made to look like superheroes by the Devils offense. You can take that thought and gratefully throw it in the trash.
Have the Devils been Goalied More than Others This Season?
If getting goalied happened to the Devils 9 times this season, then how does that compare with the rest of the league? Is it especially bad? Or especially good? Or somewhere in between. Fortunately, Natural Stat Trick has an all teams game-by-game data page, so we can check. Prior to the games played on March 15, 2023, I counted it up for all 32 teams. Here are the main results:
- The Devils are tied for 14th most with Colorado and Florida for being goalied 9 times this season.
- The current leader is Winnipeg with a whopping 15 games of being goalied. Calgary and Our Hated Rivals trail both of them with 13 games each.
- The teams that have been goalied the least? One of the better teams in the NHL and one of the worst: Toronto and Vancouver have been goalied just 3 times this season. Which is both greater than zero.
- Of note: Boston has been goalied only 4 times this season, Carolina has been goalied 11 times this season, the Islanders and Pittsburgh have been goalied 11 times as well, Tampa Bay has been goalied 8 times, and Philadelphia has been goalied 7 times.
While not great, the Devils being goalied 9 times is not exceptionally high or low. Every team gets goalied at one point or another this season. As annoying as it seems for the Devils, it could be far worse. You could be a fan of the hockey Jets. One point of solace is that the game where the Devils were the most goalied was far, far, far from the most a team has been goalied this season. Before Wednesday’s games, there have been twelve games where the difference between actual goals and expected goals was lower than four. There have been just four games where the it was lower than five. All four of those were shutouts and deserve special mention:
- February 15, 2023: Arizona 1, Tampa Bay 0 (Shootout). Tampa Bay’s xGF was 5. The Goaltender: Connor Ingram (whom the Devils beat in a 5-4 win on March 5)
- December 19, 2022: Colorado 1, Islanders 0 (Shootout). Colorado’s xGF was 5.09. The Goaltender: Ilya Sorokin (whom the Devils beat before and poor Sorokin for losing this game in a shootout.)
- November 23, 2022: Islanders 3, Edmonton 0. Edmonton’s xGF was 5.77. The Goaltender: Ilya Sorokin (whom won this game at least.)
- December 6, 2022: Toronto 4, Dallas 0, Dallas’ xGF was 6.14 to claim the Most Goalied Team in 2022-23 So Far. The Goaltender: Goalpost Movin’ Matt Murray (sigh)
Huh. The Islanders were responsible for two of the most severed goalied games this season. This is a good segue to the next question to answer.
How Many Times Have the Devils Goalied their Opponents in 2022-23?
Basically, this would mean how many games did the Devils goaltender give up fewer than at least two goals than the expected goals allowed. The answer: Ten times so far this season. And you just saw one earlier this week.
- November 26, 2022 - Devils 5, Washington 1 - GA: 1, xGA: 3.76, Difference: -2.76; Goaltender: Vitek Vanecek (37 saves on 38 shots) - Game Recap
- March 12, 2023 - Devils 3, Carolina 0 - GA: 0, xGA: 2.69, Difference -2.69; Goaltender: Vitek Vanecek (32 saves on 32 shots) - Game Recap
- February 9, 2023 - Devils 3, Seattle 1 - GA: 1, xGA: 3.59, Difference -2.59; Goaltender: MacKenzie Blackwood (33 saves on 34 shots) - Game Recap
- October 28, 2022 - Devils 1, Colorado 0 - GA: 0, xGA: 2.52, Difference: -2.52; Goaltender: Vitek Vanecek (24 saves on 24 shots) - Game Recap
- November 25, 2022 - Devils 3, Buffalo 1 - GA: 1, xGA: 3.29, Difference -2.29; Goaltender: Akira Schmid (33 saves on 34 shots) - Game Recap
- January 4, 2023 - Devils 5, Detroit 1 - GA: 1, xGA: 3.27, Difference: -2.27; Goaltender: Vitek Vanecek (32 saves on 33 shots) - Game Recap
- February 25, 2023 - Devils 7, Philadelphia 0 - GA: 0, xGA: 2.12, Difference: -2.12; Goaltender: Akira Schmid (23 saves on 23 shots) - Game Recap
- December 30, 2022 - Devils 4, Pittsburgh 2 - GA: 2, xGA: 4.06, Difference: -2.06; Goaltender: Vitek Vanecek (25 saves on 27 shots) - Game Recap
- January 22, 2023 - Devils 2, Pittsburgh 1 - GA: 1, xGA: 3.03, Difference: -2.03; Goaltender: Vitek Vanecek (25 saves on 26 shots) - Game Recap
- December 21, 2022 - Devils 4, Florida 2 - GA: 2, xGA: 4.02, Difference: -2.02; Goaltender: MacKenzie Blackwood (34 saves on 36 shots) - Game Recap
The 10 games where the Devils have goalied the other team have been distributed throughout the season. They include three shutouts, including the team’s most recent one, the team’s most recent blowout win, and the near-double-shutout against Colorado way back in October. They include the slump-ender in Florida on December 21. They include a back-to-back with Buffalo and Washington. They include not one but two games against Pittsburgh. In all ten of these games, the goaltender played a crucial role - even if it ended up not being so necessary in the 5-1 wins or the 7-0 beating on the Second Rate Rivals. Of course, the Devils also won all 10 of these games.
Surprising to me was that Blackwood ended up with two of these. It speaks to his inconsistencies that he can have some real rough games and then some real diamonds. Schmid having two on this list is encouraging for his young career. Yet, as expected, Vanecek has the most. His recent numbers may not be all that good, but he can bust out some sterling performances - such as his recent shutout of Carolina from this past Sunday.
Is 10 games a lot for a team to goalie their opposition? I would say so in this season so far. New Jersey is tied with four other teams with 10: Arizona, Philadelphia, and Washington. Only six teams have done it more: Pittsburgh (11), Winnipeg (12), Dallas (12), Nashville (13), Minnesota (13), and the league leaders: New York Islanders with 15.
You know, this is getting a bit much to focus on goaltenders doing exceptionally well. Let me discuss Devils games where they made the goaltender look exceptionally bad.
How Many Times Have the Devils Lit Up Opponent Goaltenders in 2022-23?
As a palate cleanser, let us consider how often the Devils have lit up opposition goaltenders. If getting goalied means a GF minus xGF difference of -2 or less, then let us consider lighting up a goalie to be a game where the GF is greater than xGF by 2 or more. I would expect the Devils to have quite a few of these games. After Tuesday’s games, the Devils are tied with Seattle for fifth place in the NHL for goals scored in all situations with 234. The Devils’ total expected goals for in this season is 243.77, which is the second highest in the NHL. We know the Devils got goalied 9 times this season. How many times did they do the reverse and just make it miserable for an opposition goaltender? Just seven times, if you can believe it. But they were all memorable in their own way. And three of them were in the previous list, too.
- October 25, 2022 - Devils 6, Detroit 2 - GF: 6, xGF: 2.43, Difference: 3.57; Goaltender: Alex Nedeljkovic (35 saves on 41 shots) - Game Recap
- March 1, 2023 - Devils 7, Colorado 5 - GF: 7, xGF: 3.8, Difference: 3.2; Goaltender: Justus Annunen (22 saves on 28 shots) - Game Recap
- February 25, 2023 - Devils 7, Philadelphia 0 - GF: 7, xGF: 3.8, Difference: 3.2; Goaltender: Samuel Ersson (29 saves on 36 shots) - Game Recap
- January 4, 2023 - Devils 5, Detroit 1 - GF: 5, xGF: 2.27, Difference: 2.73; Goaltender: Ville Husso (22 saves on 27 shots) - Game Recap
- November 26, 2022: Devils 5, Washington 1 - GF: 5, xGF: 2.61, Difference: 2.39; Goaltender: Charlie Lindgren (24 saves on 29 shots) - Game Recap
- February 6, 2023 - Devils 5, Vancouver 4 - GF: 5, xGF: 2.7, Difference: 2.3; Goaltender: Collin Delia (29 saves on 34 shots) - Game Recap
- January 13, 2023 - Devils 6, Anaheim 2 - GF: 6, xGF: 3.93, Difference: 2.07; Goaltender: John Gibson (33 saves on 39 shots) - Game Recap
The 5-2 win over Edmonton on November 21, 2022 just missed the cut-off. Still, all seven of these games saw the Devils offense just blow up the lamp behind the opposition goaltender. Two of these games were close ones such as the Vancouver game that went into overtime and the Colorado game that saw 5-1 turn into 5-4 remarkably quickly. Others were more or less beatings of lesser teams. Three of them ending up on the Goalied by Devils list points to how dominant the offense was in that game. (Aside: I am aware that there was an ENG on March 1; but that still puts it in this list, just lower on it between February 6 and January 13.)
Is 7 games a lot relative to the NHL? Prior to Wednesday’s games: Not so much. It is below the league median of 9 and the Devils are tied with Calgary, Chicago, and Dallas with 7 games of just exceeding the expected goals model by at least two. The current league leaders in that category is Buffalo with 14 such games. For what its worth, this is just a measure of a team soaring beyond their xGF generated in a game. Carolina is tied for the fewest such games in the league and they are doing fine - and they are the only team ahead of the Devils in total xGF so far this season. That it has happened just 7 times points to a Devils team generating quite a large amount of expected goals to go with their relatively large amount of actual goals.
As a final point, please recognize the names of the victimized goaltenders on this list. There are some unfamiliar names such was Ersson, Delia, and Annunen. As well as career backup Lindgren. Curiously, Nedeljkovic goalied the Devils in October and then got absolutely ripped apart on October 25. Husso, Detroit’s big goaltender acquisition, did not fare better on January 4. Regardless, the Devils can and have beat up lesser-named goaltenders this season. Another reason to throw that negative thought about how the Devils cannot crush little-known goalies in the trash.
Final Thoughts & Your Take
Ultimately, the results of what I found is contingent on the definition I came up with. I feel confident in the use of expected goals as it does factor in scoring chances and high danger chances among the attempts made by a team’s offense. A goaltender having an exceptional night would stop quite a few of those and should get credited for that. That is something that a straight save percentage would not do. I agree that using two as a cut-off point in either direction is an arbitrary number. However, it does yield results in terms of which games the Devils got goalied in, which games the Devils goalied their opponents, and which games the Devils lit up opposition goaltenders. Those results make sense to me with those definitions. Besides, it is more objective than a “I know it when I see it” approach. Of course, I am open to another means to objectively determine what is “getting goalied.” My hope is that with this definition, we can more accurately see whether the Devils were actually done in by an exceptional goaltending (or won with it) or if the cause is something else. Something to keep in mind as the games get bigger and the second season awaits.
Lastly: It happens to everyone. Not that it makes it any less frustrating, but it is what it is.
Now I want to know what you think. Do you agree with my definition for what it means for a team to “get goalied?” Do you think the results based on that definition for the Devils make sense; do you agree that the Devils truly got goalied in those 9 games? What about the others? Do you agree with the 10 games identified the Devils goalied their opposition as legitimate? How about the lighting up of goaltenders, which happened 7 times? Will the People Who Matter cut back on assuming a no-name goaltender will play like a Vezina candidate against the Devils? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about what it means to be goalied (preferably for or against the Devils this season) in the comments. Thanks to Natural Stat Trick for making such an look at this concept possible. Thank you for reading.