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Getting Goalied Revisited: The Threshold, the 2023 Playoffs, & the Devils Since March 17

This post revisits the familiar yet frustrating concept in hockey called “getting goalied.” It re-visits the definition and threshold and looks at how often it happened to the New Jersey Devils in the 2023 playoffs and in the season since March 17, 2023.

New Jersey Devils v New York Rangers - Game Three
Torpedo Goalied Our Hated Rivals to begin a comeback.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

One of my favorite posts from this past season was when I covered the concept of Getting Goalied on March 17, 2023. It is when a goalie just denies the opposition from scoring - even when it is entirely unexpected. Whether they are on a hot streak or just had a hot night (or the shooters were cold), it does not matter. When your team gets goalied, it stinks. When your opponent gets goalied, it rules. The larger point is that it happens to everyone.

It also can be the stuff of legend. Akira Schmid, for example, can claim this. He came into the first round series against Our Hated Rivals on April 22 cold. The New Jersey Devils were down 0-2 in the series. The Devils needed Schmid to be much better than Vitek Vanecek. The Torpedo proceeded to deny Our Hated Rivals repeatedly all night long. Dougie Hamilton was the overtime hero to take Game 3, but Schmid was the one responsible for making it happen. As it turned out, it was one of the most “goalied” a team got in the 2023 playoffs. And it would not be the only time Schmid goalied up Our Hated Rivals.

I wrote my “getting goalied” piece in the middle of March. Then, I attempted to find a statistical means to designate when a team gets goalied (or gets lit up as its opposite) with using expected and actual goal difference. I am pretty pleased with how that turned out. Now that both the regular season and the playoffs have been completed, there is a full set of data available to revisit the topic.

Defending the Threshold

When I defined the term of getting goalied, I tried to identify a good and easy-to-understand method. Actual goals for (GF) are straight forward; they are the points on the board. Expected goals for (xGF) are the result of a model assigning value to all shots by a team (or a player) based on their location, type, and other factors. While they are not guarantees of goals, they do indicate how well the team tried to score. I settled on that a difference of GF minus xGF of -2 or lower would indicate that the goalie was exceptional. For this revisit of the topic, I decided to dig a little deeper to check if that makes sense.

Using the 2022-23 regular season data from Natural Stat Trick - which is 2,624 data points - I calculated the difference of goals and expected goals for each team in each of their games in all situations. I then calculated its average and standard deviation. The average difference ended up being -0.00693216 and the standard deviation was 1.722239718. This made sense as I anticipated the average difference being around zero. However, did it represent an exceptional goaltender performance?

I decided to use a Z-table as shorthand to check that. My data is a population and not a sample as it is from this entire past season. This assumes my data is normally distributed. That is a significant assumption but I also was (and am) unsure how to determine the proper probability distribution. And if it was something unusual, I would seek out a normal transformation anyway. In any case, with this assumption, I calculated the Z-score for a difference of -2; that yielded a Z-score of approximately -1.15725344. Per a standard Z-table and rounding up to -1.16, this yielded a probability of 12.3%. Or, 12.3% of all games had a GF-xGF difference of -2 or worse.

In a more practical sense, that makes sense to me. Such a probability can be described often enough to know that it does happens and rare enough to know that is still an uncommon event. Like a shooter scoring a goal. While I could tighten the threshold to -2.25 (9.68%) or -2.5 (7.35%) to make the standard more limited, I think it removes plenty of really, really good goaltending performances that should be honored as goalie-ing up the opposition. I do not want to limit a team getting goalied as to those rare exceptions where the goalie is perfect against a flood of offense. I would love to know what is actually (and how to determine) the probability distribution of this data. I would be open to changing the threshold in light of that. For now, I will stick with a difference of -2 or worse. I am satisfied enough that it is not ridiculously offbase for what I started as a rule of thumb.

The Devils, the 2023 Playoffs, and Getting Goalied

Enough attempts at math, let us dive into how this concept applied to the 2023 NHL Playoffs. Per Natural Stat Trick, there were 176 entries of playoff games. After calculating the difference of actual goals and expected goals in all situations, I found that there 19 instances of a team getting goalied. Or approximately 10.8% of all of NST’s data set.

The New Jersey Devils were involved in three of those instances.

  • April 22, Game 3, at Our Hated Rivals, Devils won 2-1 (OT) - This was Schmid’s first playoff start. It was a crucial performance for what would become a historic comeback in the first round for New Jersey. It was also the fourth best goalie performance as OHR put up enough offense to put up four expected goals. They got one past Schmid for a difference of -3. This stood up as the most goalied a team got in the playoffs until May 14. You, as one of the People Who Matter, loved to see it.
  • April 27, Game 5, vs. Our Hated Rivals, Devils won 4-0 - You also loved to see this too. Schmid’s first playoff home game was perfect. No goals allowed. He faced 2.46 xGF and none of it went behind him and counted. It is worth noting that the Devils’ xGF in that game was 4.97 and they put four past an increasingly frustrated Igor Shesterkin. He was not a fan of the team’s - ahem - effort level. Spoiler: He really would not be a fan of it four days later.
  • May 5, Game 2, at Carolina, Devils lost 1-6 - This game was, well, really bad. The Devils did generate 3.15 xGF of offense - a big bump from their Game 1 performance of 1.94 - but was only able to get one past Frederik Andersen. This one does ring hollow as even if the Devils scored one more goal to avoid the “got goalied” designation, they still lost by a large margin.

The game that just missed the cutoff was Schmid’s Game 7 shutout of Our Hated Rivals on May 1. Yes, the 4-0 win didn’t make the -2 GF-xGF difference cut off. Our Hated Rivals sagged their way to shots totaling 1.95 xGF. Provided Schmid was in form (and he was) and the shots would not take a weird carom or catch the Devils out of sorts (they did not), the Devils would have kept them to a low score easily. Given that it took quite some time in the game for the Devils to get on the board, that would have changed things up. But as time passed, the Devils kept pounding the puck, Our Hated Rivals played like they wished they could just go to the country club already (Shesterkin excepted), and the score opened up. It was a still a great night.

Incidentally, this year’s playoffs featured just six shutouts and four of them would qualify as the shut-out team as being goalied. Schmid’s Game 7 was one exception. The other was Adin Hill’s 6-0 shutout on May 29 against Dallas where the Stars put a measly 1.31 xGF in a win-or-stay-home Game 6.

By the way, the most “got goalied” performances all happened in May. On May 14, Adin Hill kept the Oilers to two goals despite an offensive effort that had them put up 5.23 xGF. Las Vegas won that game, 5-2. Then Sergei Bobrovsky’s Hot Streak topped that one. On May 18, in a 3-2 win for Florida to start the series, Bobrovsky faced a Canes team that generated 7.22 xGF in a game. That is a ludicrous amount of offense. To put that in perspective, only one team one time surpassed 7 xGF in a game in this past season. And, weirdly, it was San Jose on February 12 against Washington in a 4-1 win with a 7.73 xGF. (One other playoff team would put up 7 xGF.) Conceding just two goals from that effort alone was massive and it was easily the most “goalied” a team was goalied in the 2023 Playoffs. Carolina secured the second more “getting goalied” in their next game on May 20 when Bobrovsky conceded one goals out of 4.68 xGF. A 2-1 win for Florida, too. They got goalied in their shutout loss on May 22 and almost did in their 4-3 elimination loss on May 24). Needless to say, Hurricanes fans were punching the air throughout that series. And again when Las Vegas ripped and tore through Bobrovsky.

The Devils, the 2023 Playoffs, and Getting Lit Up

The opposite of getting goalied is getting lit up. Or, a team lighting up a goalie - as determined by a GF-xGF difference of +2 or more. There were 21 instances of this and the league leaders were easily Las Vegas with lighting up goalies in six different games. They had the most obscene lighting up of the postseason in a 7-2 win over Florida on June 5 where they scored 7 goals with 2.77 xGF. Talk about a heat check on Bobrovsky. They did it to Florida in their Cup clinching 9-3 blowout win on June 13. They generated 7 xGF that night and beat that by scoring 9. They also did it to Dallas (4-0 on May 23, 6-0 on May 29) and Edmonton (6-4 on May 3, 5-2 on May 14) twice. Las Vegas was an offensive buzzsaw once they got going.

The Devils were involved in three of those 21 games and, unfortunately, were on the receiving end of two of them:

  • April 18, Game 1, vs. Our Hated Rivals, Devils lost 1-5. Vitek Vanecek started this one and it got ugly as OHR put up a five spot with an xGF of 2.38. The Devils were more focused on wanting to body up the visitors. The visitors and the referees were not amused. While Game 2 would force Lindy Ruff’s hand to start Schmid, this game inspired little confidence in Vanecek as being the starter. (By the way, the other two losses to Our Hated Rivals also had 5 GA. Since they generated more than 3 xGF in those two games, they do not count as the Devils’ goalie getting lit up by this measure.)
  • May 7, Game 3, vs. Carolina, Devils won 8-4. After two straight games of Carolina dominating the rink, flummoxing the Devils with their 1-2-2 (or 2-1-2 at times) forecheck, and control in all three zones, the Devils just went off on Carolina this night. It was not that the Devils generated little offense. Their xGF of 3.95 would be the most in the whole series against Carolina. They just kept finding the back of the net. Eight goals! And it was the team’s first win in the series. Would there be a repeat of the first round comeback?
  • May 9, Game 4, vs. Carolina, Devils lost 1-6. No. I thought the Devils cracked Carolina in Game 3. This game showed otherwise as the Canes rampaged through the second period to another blowout win in this series. In this one, they generated 2.87 xGF and scored six. Given the minimal amount of offense generated and scored by New Jersey, it did not need to be this bad. But it was. (And the May 5 loss where the Devils got goalied in a 1-6 loss was pretty close to joining this list.)

Since March 17, 2023...

I do not know if there is enough for a second post revisiting just the entire 2022-23 season. Therefore, I will follow up here to add in the other times the Devils got goalied or lit up a goalie since the post went up on March 17. In general, I have re-learned to avoid doing full on stats for seasons in progress too close to the end (or beginning) as this covered just another month or so of games. There were still some instances that these events happened.

Getting Goalied - 3 more times (total: 12 times in 2022-23)

  1. March 21, 2023 - Devils 1, Minnesota 2 (OT) - GF: 1, xGF: 4.53, Difference: -3.53 - Recap - Yes, Adin Hill’s monsterous performance was bested! Well, in this makeshift stat I put together, at least. Jonas Gustavsson did everything he could to shut out the Devils. It took Timo Meier on a wrap to provide a late equalizer. Alas, Gustavsson and the Wild would have the last laugh. And this game beat that Las Vegas by -0.10.
  2. March 27, 2023 - Devils 1, Islanders 5 - GF: 1, xGF: 4.15, Difference: -3.15 - Recap - The Pride of Montvale, New Jersey styled on the Devils with a three-point effort. The problem for the Devils was not so much the Isles defense or their skaters. It was Ilya Sorokin, showing that he can be the best Russian goaltender in the Metropolitan Division. On that night, he was.
  3. April 2, 2023 - Devils 1, Winnipeg 6 - GF: 1, xGF: 3.71, Difference: -2.71 - Recap - This game stunk and the only real positive was that Nico Hischier scored late (and I mean late, there were 13 seconds left) to deny the Devils from being shutout. Which they were not all season and in the playoffs. Which was rad. Not this game. It sucked and Connor Hellebuyck saw to it along with the rest of the Jets.

Goalie-ing the Opposition - 1 more time (total: 11 times in 2022-23)

  1. April 11, 2023 - Devils 6, Buffalo 2 - GA: 2, xGA: 4.25, Difference: -2.25, Goalie: Vitek Vanecek - Recap - If you wondered why Vanecek started in the playoffs, then his season performance as the team’s main starter and this game would count as reasons why. This win did secure home ice for the first round. Fitting as it was on Fan Appreciation Night at the Rock. Buffalo did have a goal taken off the board so it was close, but Vanecek put in a great performance as the Devils went on to another decisive win ahead of the postseason.

Lighting Them Up - 2 more times (total: 9 times in 2022-23)

  1. April 1, 2023 - Devils 6, Chicago 3 - GF: 6, xGF: 3.56, Difference: +2.44 - Recap - Before that awful game against Winnipeg, the Devils pulled away from Chicago for a big victory. The game was not that close until it was not and the Devils just kept scoring and scoring and scoring into the third period.
  2. April 6, 2023 - Devils 8, Columbus 1 - GF: 8, xGF: 4.57, Difference: +3.43 - Recap - This game was close but was not the most lit up an opponent was at the hands of the Devils. I loved this game. It was an absolute joy to watch. After years of seeing Columbus stomp on New Jersey and Oliver Bjorkstand being A Problem, I loved the Devils’ blowout wins over the Blue Jackets. This one was legitimately one of the biggest of the season.

Devils Goalies Getting Lit Up - 2 more times (total: 8 times in 2022-23)

  1. March 24, 2023 - Devils 4, Buffalo 5 - GA: 5, xGA: 2.12, Difference: 2.88 - Recap - This was an annoying loss as it was just filled with mistakes by the Devils. A comeback effort was made but the hole was just too big to overcome. That hole featured three goals allowed on seven shots by Schmid in a rare bad start for him. Vanecek came in for him but was beaten twice on five shots in the second period. It was just a rough night. Thankfully, it did not mean much in the bigger picture.
  2. April 2, 2023 - Devils 1, Winnipeg 6 - GF: 6, xGA: 2.31, Difference: 3.69 - Recap - I covered this loss. The goalies involved were Vanecek, who conceded four goals in the first two periods, and Mackenzie Blackwood, who conceded two goals on six shots in the third period. My recap pointed out how I did not think there was a goalie controversy. I think Blackwood’s terrible April 13 performance in D.C. ensured that there would not be one.

Final Revisited Thoughts & Your Take

In revisiting this concept for the remainder of 2022-23, the 2023 playoffs, and attempting to use a Z-table for the first time in a long time for me, I feel satisfied that the metric has some merit. Even if a tighter threshold is used for a difference in GF and xGF (or GA and xGA), the point remains the same: this can and does happen to everybody. It can and did happen a couple of times to the Devils, good and bad, in the remainder of the 2022-23 season since the first post. It happened, good and bad, to the Devils in the playoffs. It happened, good and bad, to other teams in the playoffs - even those that went to the Conference Finals (e.g. Bobrovsky goalie-ing Carolina to a broom) or the Stanley Cup Finals (e.g. Las Vegas torching Bobrovsky). And this simple difference is a good way as any to objectively say it happened beyond our memories or what our eyes claimed to have seen. Especially in the games we did not see.

Once again, I want to know what you think. Do you still agree with my definition for what it means for a team to “get goalied?” Were you surprised to learn how often it did (or did not happen) in the playoffs, much less the Devils? What about in the regular season games involving the Devils between March 17 and April 14? Will the People Who Matter continue to 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 this re-visitation of this concept possible. Thank you for reading.