Photo by Matthew Raney Photography
Calling Buffalo Beauts goaltender Amanda Leveille simply the NWHL’s Goaltender of the Year for 2017-18 was the understatement of the season.
Leveille entered the season as the Beauts designated number goalie after splitting time with Brianne McLaughlin the previous season, and the Beauts did not make it easy on her. Leveille started all 16 regular season games and both playoff games for the Beauts. The Ontario native faced more total shots and more shots on goal per game than any other goalie in the league. Leveille saved just over half a goal per game above average in her appearances.
Let’s look at it deeper.
Goals Saved Above Average is a simple formula where we can evaluate how a league average goalie would perform given any goalie’s workload. In order to evaluate a league average save percentage, we can take the evaluated goalie out of the equation, and total up league-wide shots on goal and saves. This way, when evaluating Leveille, her .918 season save percentage doesn’t inflate what the rest of the league did, and we can independently evaluate her against the rest of the league.
League avg Sv% = 1 – (league GA excluding goalie / league SOG excluding goalie)
We then take this goalie independent league average sv%, and get a Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) for each netminder as the amount of saves the goalie actually made, minus the amount of saves the league average netminder would have.
GSAA = Saves – (league avg Sv% * Shots on goal faced)
It would be dangerous to only look at GSAA and not consider workload, but Leveille was also the busiest goalie in the league. Here’s how the four starters of the 17-18 season fared throughout the season in terms of workload (shots on goal against):
We can see here that around game four, Leveille started facing more shots on goal than any other netminder and never looked back. We can also see that Connecticut’s Sydney Rossman and Boston’s Brittany Ott shared very similar work. Finally, the Riveters’ superb Katie Fitzgerald, the 2016-17 NWHL Goalie of the Year, would have the lightest workload of all behind the championship Riveters roster. Credit the Rivs’ team concept, along with their standout corps of defenders.
Now of course, we are missing the context of quality shots here as well as expected goals against, but being busy is being busy, and Leveille did not have an easy go of it this year. Rossman, who would also play in all 16 games for her Whale, faced 434 shots on goal in the regular season.
Finally, we can look at league wide GSAA, and how the goalies compared to one another:
The first thing that stands out in this chart is certainly the rookie Rossman, but again we must remember that this does not yet adjust for quality of shots. We know that Rossman faced a ton of shots on goal this season and kept the Whale in games nightly, sometimes making spectacular saves.
The next item that jumps out, again, is Leveille, who faced the most shots on goal per game (dark red bar), and still was able to find a way to lead the league in GSAA.
In the future, it will be very interesting to see how adjusting for quality changes the above. It will also be interesting to come back next year as Leveille has a full season of being a bonafide starter under her belt, and Rossman continues to get acclimated to the league. Not to mention that we’ll have a fifth goalie enter the mix next year! Welcome, Minnesota!
As for 2017-18, Amanda Leveille…goaltender of the year. Yeah, I’d say so.