Shark-Infested Blogger

June 23, 2010 10:20 PM

Evgeni Nabokov: A Statistical Analysis

The San Jose Sharks announced Tuesday that they would not be bringing goalie Evgeni Nabokov back.

On Bleacher Report, I examined the failures of his offensive support in the playoffs. Here I will look at Nabby's career in both the regular season and playoffs.

2940489539_c56ac0ffc5.jpgOver ten seasons with the Sharks, Nabby had a 293-178-66 record (a .607 point percentage) with a .912 save percentage and a 2.39 goals against average. He appeared in the playoffs after nine of those seasons, compiling a 40-38 record (.513) with a .913 save percentage and 2.29 GAA.

But statistics can be misleading, and must be further examined in context.

For instance, while a drop of 96 points in his record in the playoffs sounds bad, the most successful goalie of the modern era, Martin Brodeur, has a career record 88 points lower in the playoffs. A save percentage that is up just one point and a GAA just a tenth of a goal lower looks worse than Brodeur's five points and two-tenths of a goal, until you consider that Martin played much more in the era when scoring went down considerably in the playoffs.

The reality is that over the past four playoffs, both players suffered production drops from the regular season three times. The only year Brodeur did not was one in which he played only 31 regular season games.

Nabokov played in 62 or more games in five of his ten seasons in teal, and the Sharks made the playoffs in each of them. All five times, his save percentage went down and his goals against average went up in the playoffs.

In his other four seasons in which he made the playoffs, the only time this happened was when he faced four shots in relief of Vesa Toskala in 2006 and allowed a goal. All three other times the save percentage went up and GAA down from the regular season once the post-season started.

Nabokov failed to achieve a .910 save percentage and GAA under 2.50 in just two regular seasons: In 2002-03 (.907, 2.71), the Sharks missed the playoffs; in 2005-06 (.885, 3.10) we later found out he was battling through a sports hernia.

Statistically, his worst playoff performance was in 2009, when he had an .890 save percentage and a 2.82 GAA. However, his first two campaigns were worse considering the scoring average in those playoffs: He had a .903 and 2.75 in 2001 and a .904 and 2.61 in 2002 while going 8-6 collectively. Both were drops of at least 12 points and increases of at least three goals every ten games.

As for those who assert that Nabby never put the team on his back, I beg to differ: In 2004, he carried them to within two wins of the Stanley Cup Finals with an astonishing .935 save percentage, an increase of 14 points over the regular season. His 1.71 GAA was down over 20 percent from his regular season mark of 2.20, while the Sharks offence that year was over 15 percent below the regular season average.

But even that was not good enough to win the Stanley Cup. If and when that Cup is hoisted in San Jose, the name on it will not be the best goalie in franchise history.

On behalf of the fans who understand that hockey is the ultimate team sport, let me say that is a shame. Best of luck wherever you land, Nabby.

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