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Meet Jake Allen’s nemesis, the ‘low danger’ shot.

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First of all, you all should know how I feel by now about the Elliott trade. Elliott deserved his chance to be a starter in St. Louis. Instead, Armstrong shipped him off to hockey Siberia to go play hockey with the Calgary Flames. Meanwhile the Blues just gave Allen the starting job outright bringing in Hutton to work as his back up. In true Blues’ fan fashion he has been the point of blame for some of the Blues struggling play this season. It is the age old conflict between hockey fans. Was that a soft goal the goalie should have saved, or was the defense to blame? Was it a lucky bounce or was Allen screened? That’s why I am here. To answer those questions for you.

The bottom line is, Allen is an average goalie overall, but this season he has been a bit less than average when compared to his peers. Who are his peers? I took a look at all goaltenders this season and the previous season. I chose the goaltenders who saw roughly the same amount of time on ice and games played for their respective seasons. Some goaltenders met the criteria for one season but not the other. I only chose goaltenders who met the criteria for both seasons. This resulted in about 30 goalies that we are using for our sample by which we will judge Jake Allen.

Last season, Allen was a solid average goaltender. His 5v5 save % was above average and he was in the middle of the pack (Brian Elliott was at the top of that pack by the way). His low and med danger save % were both above average while his high danger save % was below average. But both his shots against per 60 and goals against per 60 were below his peer average. Solid, average goal tending.

This season is a different story and a bit perplexing. First, his overall 5v5 save % has dropped compared to last season. He is currently sitting in the bottom third of his peer group. His medium danger save % is well above average, and his high danger save % is about where it was last season. His low danger save % is one of the worst in his peer group. The rate of low danger shots against is below average, but the low danger goals against is above average. This is while he is facing one of the smallest percentage of low danger shots out of all shots he faces.

Why is Jake Allen struggling with what are low danger shots. These are shots that are least likely to be converted to goals. Allen doesn’t see as many of them as a total percent of all shots faced, but apparently what he does face he lets in. By now you are wondering “what exactly does Robb mean when he writes ‘low danger shot’?” The data is taken from Corisca.Hockey’s website. Emmanuel Perry wrote about how he calculates the “danger level” of a shot and included this contour map to illustrate his point.

image from corsica.hockey
Emmanuel Perry

In this image, the yellow is high danger, the orange-ish tint is medium and the red tint is low danger shots. Roughly what you would expect. How here are the shots that Allen is facing at 5v5.

image screen capped from corsica.hockey

And then here are the goals scored on Allen at 5v5.

image screen capped from corsia.hockey

You can see the low danger goals in this image. A couple at the top of the circle and some coming from the space between the circles and the blue line. He has let in 7 low danger goals in 5 games. Two goals against came playing the Predators on December 13th, and then again against the Calgary Flames on October 22nd. Here are the video clips for the four goals against.

Versteeg’s goal was a one-time slapper though traffic. Forsberg’s release could have been screen by Shattenkirk. Neal’s goal was off a face off and I will never ever blame a goalie for a face-off goal against. The only one of these four that I (someone who has never played the position of goalie) think Allen should have legitimately stopped was the Girodano goal. Allen had a clear view of what was happening on the ice. In fact, the Flames even went to the trouble of sending Allen a certified letter of their intention to make that play and Allen had plenty of time to sign for it and read it before Girodano took the shot.

It can be disheartening to see your goalie let in a goal on those types of shots. You think that he should have them as you are watching from your television. However, the view from the ice is a totally different story. Even having seats along the board does not provide the same perspective as that of a goalie’s when on the ice. At the same time, it is hard to dismiss the numbers. The percentage of low percentage shots Allen faces (out of all shots against) is one of the lowest in the league. If you a goalie faces so few of those shots, you would expect him to make those saves especially from the locations that the shots are being generated. But as we see in the 4 clips above, three of the shots that beat Allen were not obvious even if they were “low danger” shots.

Allen has played better than many fans give him credit for right now. However, it is clear that he needs to work harder at handling shots generated from areas of the ice that are considered “low danger.” Even if this means having some tough conversations with his teammates about how they play those shots. And while he is handling high danger shots as well as he did last season, it would be a benefit for the team, and go a long way with the fans, if he could find a way to improve his save percentage for shots that are generated right on his front door step.