New Sharks goalies Adin Hill and James Reimer have a tall task ahead this coming season.
In 2018-19, the San Jose Sharks were dead-last in the NHL in Save %. In 2019-20, they were 30th. Last season, they were 29th.
Well, you can’t say that San Jose’s goaltending hasn’t been getting better!
Another way to underscore their new goaltending tandem’s challenge? Suffice to say, there isn’t a lot of faith in the Sharks to make the playoffs.
For example, current Sports Betting Dime odds for the San Jose Sharks getting into the 2022 playoffs is +250, tied for second-worst in the Western Conference.
The 1977 Montreal Canadiens, they ain’t.
In short, it’s going to be an uphill climb for Hill and Reimer to turn San Jose’s fortunes around in goal. But here’s the good news: According to proprietary 5-on-5 tracking data from Clear Sight Analytics, at least one of these new netminders should address a glaring Sharks problem area.
Doug Wilson said of Hill: “We have been impressed with the trajectory of his play, particularly his ability to make saves in high-danger scoring opportunities.”
That should help this team. “The defensive environment [in San Jose] was a difficult one — they were giving up a lot of high percentage chances per 60 minutes,” Nolan Schaefer, ex-San Jose Sharks netminder and Clear Sight Analytics’ VP for Product Development, noted.
Per Natural Stat Trick, Hill was 13th in the NHL this season with an .838 High-Danger Save % (of 51 goalies, 800+ 5-on-5 minutes). Incumbent San Jose Sharks starter Martin Jones was 37th with an .806.
Clear Sight Analytics helps us drill down further: Hill was fantastic against Slot Line Plays.
In related news, the San Jose Sharks surrendered the second-most Slot Line Plays in the league last year.
What exactly is a Slot Line Play? Here’s a Hill save on one last year:
ADIN HILL, WE LOVE YA! pic.twitter.com/D7mssq6kG2
— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) February 25, 2021
“[The slot line] is a line that goes directly through the middle of the ice from one net to the other. It separates the ice into two equal parts. A puck crossing this imaginary line immediately preceding a shot increases a shooters scoring opportunity by over 10 times,” Chris Boyle wrote. “This is because goalies have limitations to their movements and while laterally tracking they are forced to open up.”
The Slot Line Play — once known as the Royal Road Pass — is the brainchild of Steve Valiquette, former NHL goalie and President/CEO of Clear Sight Analytics.
According to CSA, Hill was fourth in the NHL with an .882 Slot Line Save %, 30 saves in 34 opportunities.
Martin Jones? He turned away just 48 of 70 such chances, for a dismal .686 Slot Line Save %.
Devan Dubnyk wasn’t any better in teal, stopping 25 of 39 for a .641 Slot Line Save %.
Clear Sight Analytics didn’t provide Reimer’s Slot Line numbers last season, but they likely weren’t exceptional: Hill was 20th in the NHL by CSA’s measurement of Expected Save % — derived from Save % off scoring chances for goalies who faced 200-plus 5-on-5 chances — Jones 47th, Dubnyk 51st, and Reimer 56th.
“It’s about reading the play. It’s about making the right decisions. You’ve seen it over and over and over,” Schaefer offered about Hill. “He’s an athletic goaltender and very able to move across as well. But at the same time, a big portion of this at this speed with the new NHL is making the read.”
It makes sense, right? If you’re a bad defensive team, get you a man who can erase your mistakes.
Can Hill be the man for the San Jose Sharks? Considering that they spent a second-round pick on the 25-year-old? They’re counting on it.
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