Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Actual vs Predicted: Goalies

Before the season started, I did a preview for every player on the Men’s Hockey team. In that preview, I included a prediction on the regular season production, and now w/ the season over I thought it would be a good time to take a look back at the team.

Also, I thought it would be fun to include a grade for each player. The grade I’m going to give will be a combination of how successful I think a player’s season was, and how well they exceeded, met or left fans wanting based on expectations coming into the season. Players like Tom Gorowsky and Andy Bohmbach will score higher for example, while Michael Davies would score lower based on expectations. Grades will be the regular A thru F w/ I (for incomplete) for a handful who didn’t see much action. This isn’t a new age grading scale where everyone gets an A to avoid any hard feelings, though I don’t plan to hand out any really bad grades.

Obviously these grades are my opinion and a reminder all stats are regular season only, so if you see the total stats for the season elsewhere they won’t be the same for most players.

So let’s start w/ the goaltenders.

Jeff Henderson & Ryan Jeffery – Grade: I (incomplete)

Neither player saw any game action in their final season in Madison, but their role in practice helping to make the rest of the team better should not be understated. I was hoping they would each see a little action in a game that was in hand, but when were any games this season in hand before the final buzzer? GL to both young men in their future endeavors.

Scott Gudmandson – Grade: I
Actual stats: 3 starts, 1-2-0, 3.83 GAA, 0.881 save %
Predicted stats: 8 starts, 4-3-1, 2.52 GAA

Gudmandson didn’t get enough games IMO to get a grade. He started a few games early in the season, was horrible in the first two, and shut out Tech in the third. Down the stretch he didn’t see much action at all, though he looked decent Saturday night at home against Denver when Connelly was pulled after the 1st period. Tough spot to come into, the team was reeling w/ no heart left to play the game. Gudmandson needs to step it up next season if he wants to be the starter. Brett Bennett is having a great season in the USHL and will be thirsty to make up for lost time in college hockey.

Shane Connelly – Grade: B
Actual stats: 33 starts, 16-13-4, 2.60 GAA, 0.910 save % (those are both close for the regular season)
Predicted stats: 28 starts, 17-7-4, 2.25 GAA

I’m not going to beat around the bush, I think Connelly had a pretty good season. There are a lot of Badger fans out there that like to lump the Badgers lack of success on his shoulders and say that he isn’t a “championship” level goaltender. Is he Brian Elliott? No, who is? As fans, we were spoiled by Elliott and unfortunately for Connelly he was the next goalie in line, so the expectations were high, though I think unfairly high. Let’s take a look at how he compared to other WCHA goalies. The only goalies that really stick out from the group are Alex Stalock and Marc Cheverie. In save % during conferences games, there is a log jam between .913 and .909%. Where does Connelly fall into that group? Right behind Richard Bachman, and right ahead of Jase Weslosky and Brad Eidsness, all who are NHL draft picks (w/ Bachman having signed a contract already w/ Dallas). Way behind is Alex Kangas. His GAA is 4th overall as well.

Could Connelly have made a few more timely saves and the team in turn won a few more games? No doubt, the Saturday N. Michigan and Friday Denver game stick out in my head. Could the team have actually finished on some of the goal scoring opportunities to lift the team to victory when Connelly put them into position to win? You better believe they could have, this team had a problem not only finishing games this season, but finishing around the net. There were several nights in the 2nd half of the season where the Badgers were the better team, but that didn’t translate onto the scoreboard.

This season the team never bailed Connelly out when he had an off night, and what goalie isn’t going to have an off night? On the flip side, Connelly put the team in position to win several games, but the team didn’t do its part to win. A few examples would be Saturday night against Colorado College and Duluth (especially this game), against Lake State in the showdown and Friday night at home against North Dakota. If the team’s offensive has some timely goal scoring in ONE of these games, or if there isn’t a huge blunder by one of the skaters, the team dances in the NCAA tourney. Pretty hard to just blame Connelly for the team’s struggles.

Would the team have swept their hated rival the gophers on the road if not for big save after big save by Shane Connelly? Did we not all enjoy this series?

Lastly, after starting 0-6-1, by Christmas the team had turned things around to 9-7-2. During the 9-1-1 stretch, Connelly had a roughly 1.90 GAA. Would the team have turned things around w/ out him backstopping them? There might not have been any hope at an NCAA tourney berth after Christmas if not for Connelly’s great play during that stretch. He struggled down the stretch on a few nights, but the overall body of work this season was pretty good, and fans seem to quickly forget the successes after a few stinging disappointments.

I have no problem being on record saying Shane Connelly was a good goaltender and I would like to thank him for his efforts during his Badger career helping to put the team in position to be successful and wish him the best in the future whether that is in a hockey rink or in the “exciting” working world. I’m not saying he is an all-time great and he definitely could have been more consistent at times, but he had a fine Badger career and we should thank him for this.

I feel better now; this has bothered me for a few weeks. When the team won, Connelly is great, when the team lost it was all his fault and the dissenters came out of the woodwork to disappear again after the next win. I now rest my case.