by Timo Seppa
Coach Quenneville: Don’t wait another game. It’s time to ditch the underperforming Number 1 goalie Nikolai Khabibulin and to give Number 1A goalie Cristobal Huet a shot.
In my ESPN Insider article prior to the beginning of the postseason, I made predictions on save percentage for the 2009 playoffs based on career playoff save percentage, the current regular season save percentage and shots against for the season. Out of the projected starting goaltenders, the ‘Bulin Wall came in second, behind Roberto Luongo. Since then, I followed up that article with another, studying goalies under 24 years of age and providing a solely SOGA-based formula for predicting their performance (Steve Mason, Carey Price and Simeon Varlamov apply). Khabibulin still came in 3rd, behind Luongo and Varlamov.
There’s no denying - the 36 year old veteran has been a bust so far in the playoffs. He has posted an ugly .897 -and falling- save percentage over a full 9 games against the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks. Before the postseason, there was no reason to contemplate going with Huet in net. While Huet’s predicted postseason save percentage was a likewise excellent .922, Khabibulin was the established number one man and a former Stanley Cup winner.
Things have changed. We’re no longer comparing Khabibulin’s predicted .925 (.922 career playoffs; .919 regular season; 1155 SOGA) to Huet’s predicted .922 (.919 career playoffs; .909 regular season; 1087 SOGA), we’re comparing Khabibulin’s established performance level of .897 with Huet’s predicted performance level of .922. As I’ve shown in my articles and as Rob Vollman and I have discussed regarding Rob’s metric Quality Starts and Poor Starts, the difference between .897 and .922 is the difference between almost certainly losing versus almost certainly winning.
Throw into the mix the fact that Khabibulin has allowed no less than 3 goals in each game so far against Vancouver and the fact that he had a mindboggling 10 game winless streak against the Canucks prior to his Game 2 win, and you may wonder why a competent coach would even hesitate in making the switch now.
The Wall is about to fall. Will Chicago go down with it?