The biggest move the New York Islanders made didn’t come during the free agency period, rather 9 days before June 1st.
On May 1st, Islanders General Manager Garth Snow traded a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft for the rights to then 28 year-old goaltender Jaroslav Halak from the Washington Capitals. Then on May 22nd, Halak agreed to a four-year, $18 million deal to join the Islanders for one last season in Uniondale before they make the move to the Barclays Center next season.
For a team suffering season after season with sub-par goaltending, the Isles locked down the biggest missing piece of the puzzle with the signing of Halak. To see how valuable this signing was, we’ll take a look at some numbers over the past 5 seasons.
|Season||Saves||Shots Against||SV %|
Above is a look at the Islanders team save percentages since 2009. Over that time period, NINE have played games in net for the Isles. That list includes: Marty Biron, Dwayne Roloson, Rick DiPietro, Mikko Koskinen, Nathan Lawson, Al Montoya, Kevin Poulin, Anders Nilsson, and Evgeni Nabokov. If you’ve caught your breath, you’ll realize how this is a perfect example of quantity over quality. As you can see, the majority of the seasons were below .900, or what I like to refer to as the “Mendoza line of hockey.” Over the last 5 season, Isles goaltending has posted a .899.
National Hockey League average weighs in at about .915.
Here is where Jaroslav Halak comes in. Halak has played in 295 NHL games (272 regular season, 23 playoffs) resulting in a save percentage of .918. To show the impact Halak may have on the Isles, we’ll use last season as a comparison for a “what if” scenario.
Of course, Halak can not start all 82 games. In this scenario we will use Evgeni Nabokov as the backup goaltender. With a tandem of Halak and Nabokov, we’ll assume Halak would get around 60 starts (which may be a little high, but we’ll see how much time he gets this season).
If Halak played in 60 games last season and posted his career average of a .918 SV% during that time, of the 2,464 shots Isles goalies faced, Halak would have seen around 1,799 of them, concluding that Halak would have allowed around 148 goals. Nabokov, playing in 22 games would have seen around 665 shots, allowing around 59 goals (using his career average of .912 SV%). Given that the Islanders gave up 261 goals in 2013-14, that would be a goal differential of 54, which is a HUGE difference (about 22%).
From one aspect, that’s .66 goals per game. From another, go through the amount of 1 goal games the Isles lost alone (hint: there were a lot) and start subtracting goals from the opponent. You’ll see how big of a difference 59 goals can be over the course of a season.
With all that being said, this is most definitely a what if scenario but does show just how much of an upgrade the Isles got in Halak. Of course, as Islanders fans are aware, his numbers could decline in which case we don’t see any scenario mentioned above playing out.
If Halak, as well as Chad Johnson, can play even close to their career averages (close as in, even if Halak played around .914, Johnson drops down from .926 to even .912), the Isles should look immensely different. While we won’t cover this now, but as it has been mentioned time and time again on Twitter, the defense should also take a huge leap forward with a better tandem behind them.
At the end of the day, all teams defense will make mistakes. It makes a tremendous difference having a goaltender that can bail out those mistakes and not glorify them by having the puck end up in the back of your net.
We might have finally solved that most important piece of the puzzle that has been lacking for so long.