Would The Blackhawks Miss The Playoffs If They Had League Average Goaltending?

Goaltending has carried the Blackhawks this season, but what if there was a way to evaluate how much of an impact Corey Crawford and Scott Darling have had this season for Chicago.

Luckily for us, there is.

The stat is called “Goals Saved Above Average“.

Here is a pretty good explanation by Greg Balloch of In Goal Magazine:

“You take the league’s average save percentage and apply it to the amount of shots a particular goalie has faced. You get a number of goals that the average goalie in that league would have surrendered if they faced the same number of shots as the goaltender in question. That number gets compared to the number of goals surrendered by that goaltender, and a plus/minus is created. If a goalie is in the positive, that is how many goals they have saved compared to a league-average goalie. If they are in the negative, then it is safe to assume that they are performing worse than how a league-average goaltender would perform in the same situation.”

If we take a look at the Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) of Crawford and Darling, we would then know how they roughly compare to a league average goalie. Here are all goalies that have faced at least 250 shots on goal this season.

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Corey Crawford is around +18, while Scott Darling is a +10. Combined, that becomes +28 for the Chicago goaltending duo. We can then estimate that if Chicago had league average goalies this season, they would most likely have given up 28 more goals in the 31-games they have played. Let’s see just how far Chicago would drop in goal differential with average goaltending.

Here is NHL team 5v5 goal differential this season:

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Chicago currently has:

  • Goals For 53
  • Goals Against 35
  • Goal Differential +18
  • NHL ranking 4th

With League average goaltending giving up 28 more 5v5 goals this season:

  • Goals For 53
  • Goals Against 63
  • Goal Differential (-10)
  • NHL Ranking 25th

With league average goaltending, one could estimate that Chicago would currently be out of playoff position. Since they have received the league’s best goaltending so far, they are actually in first place of the Central Division.

This is why you may have heard that Chicago is bound to take a step back this season. Chicago isn’t a great team anymore. Chicago is a wild card level team. Without great goaltending, they would probably not even be in a playoff spot. They are in first place, but it’s not because the team is dominating play like the Blackhawks of the past years. They are winning because of astonishingly great play between the pipes.

How long will it last?