Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Food for thought on Niemi's NHL rookie year statistics

For all the people out there anxious to debunk the idea that Niemi is a good goalie; and for those of you so hasty to dismiss Niemi and say "he couldn't have done it without his D-men", some food for thought.

For the 2009-10 regular season, Niemi ranked 17 out of 83 goalies in number of wins. And that's with only 39 games played. 26 games won - with 7 of them shutouts.

For the SC Playoffs, add in 16 wins, 6 losses, 2 shutouts, so that brings his total 2009-10 record to 42-17, with 9 shutouts.

Stats-wise, that means he won 67% of his regular season games, and when you factor in his SCP games, the figure actually rises to 69%, with a staggering 21.4% of his wins being shutouts (15.2% of all games played). I don't care how good your defense is when considering shutouts, because there are still shots against goal, and it is still up to the goalie to stop them and be credited for them. Martin Brodeur, who had the most regular season shutouts (9) and zero in the playoffs, won 20% of his regular season wins as shutouts, but had only 10.9% of all games played be SOs.

For a compartive benchmark, we'll use the goalie who won the most games in the league: Martin Brodeur: won 45 of 77 GP (58.4%), only 168 goals (2.24 GAA), 2004 SA, w/.916 sv%, with 4,499 minutes played. Add in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and he had 46 wins in 82 games.

By comparison, Niemi won 26 of 39 of his regular season games, with 82 goals (2.25 GAA), 936 SA, w/.912 sv%. Add in SCP, his record becomes 42-17.

Regular season: 39 games, 936 SA (24 avg/game), 82 goals, 2.25 GAA, .912%,  2190 minutes played
Playoffs: 22 games, 645 SA (29.3 avg/game), 58 goals, 2.63 GAA, .910% in the playoffs, 1321 minutes played

Let that sink in a moment: the shots against average for the Blackhawks went up by a whopping 5.3 per game in the Playoffs. So although Niemi's playoff GAA looked bad, he faced 69% as many goals in just 56% as many games as he'd played in the entire regular season.

Regular + playoffs together: 61 games, 1581 SA, 140 goals, 2.39 GAA, .911 sv%, 3511 minutes played.

You can see the math. It might be his first year in the NHL, but Niemi is experienced from his years in the Finnish leagues, and he is not a bad goalie.


  1. Great post. Thank you for doing the math! I've been trying to make this very point to anyone who will listen (sadly, in my circle, that appears to be approximately no one, not that they don't like Niemi, they just don't care enough to talk about hockey in the off-season). I haven't taken the time to do this number crunching, though.

    I'm surprised (in a bad way) at the number of people crying "Mediocre!" now, and claiming how easy it would be to replace Niemi with any just-okay goalie, because, in their opinion, it was all the work of the D. My argument has been that the goalie and the D complement each other. Yes, a great defense makes the goalie look better, but it works both ways. Niemi has stolen some games that we otherwise would have given away (not to mention those shutout numbers), and the defense plays with confidence with him in net.

    Love the blog! I'm a fairly new follower and instant fan!

  2. Niemi did not make a splash for himself as a showy, noticeable "leader" or as a persona off the ice. But any team takes confidence from what they see happening in the goal - that's why you can see teams absolutely fall apart when there's bad things happening in goal, it affects the whole team's confidence. (Example: see the infamous Columbus game.)

    His style isn't the most graceful or the prettiest, but he gets the job done, and done well. I'm very tired of the Niemi-bashing.

  3. No, he's not a bad goalie, but he's not exceptional, either. I'd be interested to see where his stats would be if he played as many games as Brodeur, for instance. I'd be much more accepting of him if he didn't go to arbitration and if we weren't possibly faced with having to cough up more than $2m for a 1 year contract for him.

    As for those bashing Niemi (which I have not done, btw), unfortunately, it same shit, different goalie. It was Huet before, and now it's Niemi. *shrug*

  4. I'd be much more accepting of him if he didn't go to arbitration and if we weren't possibly faced with having to cough up more than $2m for a 1 year contract for him.

    My gut feeling is that it's more his agent than him that pushed for arbitration, but those of us outside the team will probably never know. His value is being debated because of it; and since Hjal's move forced the Hawks' hands, it leaves less money to pay other people on the team.

    I think he's worth more than $2M. (Maybe not $4M, he's still only played half a season worth of regular-season games.) But in order to afford ANY goalie for this year, whatever goalie it is, is going to have to agree to either a couple years very cheap, or a single year at a bargain. The team is strapped unless they can make some very careful moves to clear up another million or two. I don't see how any agent - or player - can hope to get any more than $2M, maaaayyybe $2.5M, out of the team at this point.


Thanks for your viewpoint!

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