How valuable is Jeff Zatkoff?
Heading into the 2013-14 season, the news that Tomas Vokoun would likely be sidelined the entire season with blood clot issues put an immediate question mark on the Penguins goaltending position.
No one could have predicted that Marc-Andre Fleury would look like a different netminder, quelling many of the concerns that were an overflow of his collapse for the Penguins in last year’s playoffs.
But the bigger surprise, the one no one could have predicted, was Jeff Zatkoff and his 9-2 record as Fleury’s backup this season.
So why not do what we do with Fleury, and take stock of Zatkoff’s advanced goaltending metrics.
Let’s see just how good this guy has been.
Some of these will be a bit skewed because of the 11 game sample size for Zatkoff, but regardless, they’ll at least be fun to look at.
Goals Above Replacement
Perhaps my favorite of the advanced goaltending numbers, GAR looks at how many goals Jeff Zatkoff has prevented ahead of a replacement level goaltender.
The term “replacement level” represents the best goaltender that a team could find on short notice with small resource expenditure (either the top goaltender on their minor league team, or the top free agent available). They generally perform 1.5% below the league average.
Zatkoff GAR: 1.39
So, not a huge number here. In fact, it’s exactly what the title of the statistic says. Jeff Zatkoff is, in all actuality, the perfect league replacement goaltender. Actually, he’s 1.39 goals better. Remember, this is 1.39 goals spread over nearly 700 minutes of ice time.
But take this into consideration, if we were to take these numbers and crunch them against what the league average save percentage is, Jeff Zatkoff has only allowed 3.72 goals MORE than the league average goaltender!
Readers, that is pretty amazing stuff to consider. This is a goalie that hasn’t played in the National Hockey League prior to this year!
This one is a little more complicated, so I’ll allow Hockey Goalies to explain.
“Many times, differences in save percentage between goaltenders can be the result of random fluctuation. This statistic asks the question “if this goaltender were truly a league average goaltender, facing the number of shots that they faced, how remarkable would their actual performance have been?”
“Truly remarkable performances (good and bad) start at about two points away from league average, and the larger the number, the more significant.”
Zatkoff Z-Score: -.92
So, again, we see Zatkoff (small sample size and all) performing about one deviation away from what the actual league average is for goaltenders this year.
I think we can summarize what these numbers tell us in one sentence:
Jeff Zatkoff has been good enough to hang with the league average goaltenders in the NHL. That includes the guy he’s playing behind, Marc-Andre Fleury.
When you have a rookie goaltender hanging around with some of the best in the game, you’re doing pretty well for yourself.
While the story on Zatkoff remains unwritten; Penguins fans can rest assured that they have a solid backup on their hands.