Who am I kidding? I just completely lied to you. My goal of this is to ultimately come to the conclusion that everything will be alright with Peters. I have my doubts, but I will still try.
Peters has churned out bad performance after bad performance after bad performance. With the team that has had two relatively good goaltenders for the better part of four or five seasons, frustration has set in virtually every time Peters has manned the pipes. In his last five games, Peters has let in 19 goals. That's pretty terrible. That's, like, really terrible.
As someone who defended Holtby during his horrid run earlier this year, I figured it would only be fair to try to do the same for Peters. So...let's see if I can find any sort of positive trends with Peters to assure everyone (including myself) that everything will be ok with our backup goaltender.
I thought that, first, we should look at how Peters compares to other backups in the league. This season, 37 goaltenders who would not be considered "starters" have suited up for NHL teams. I thought that we could look at each backup goaltenders goals against average per game, and save percentage at even strength. I think even strength save percentage is the fairest way to look at a goaltenders true save percentage. Here is the graph I made.
Now, the graph is set up so that the closer a point is to the upper right corner, the better the goaltender is. The size of the circle represents how many games that goaltender has played (the bigger, the more games). You can see that Michael Hutchinson has been a beast of a backup for Winnipeg. Martin Jones has been great for the Kings. Keith Kinkaid and Troy Gooseneck (New Jersey and San Jose, respectively) have been great in small sample sizes. The dark circle more towards the bottom left corner is Justin Peters. He's not in a great position. He's comparable to Petr Mrazek (Detroits third goaltender), Ray Emery (Philadelphia) and, to an extent, Anton Khudobin, who unseated Peters of his backup role in Carolina. Peters is actually most comparable to Eddie Lack of Vancouver. I removed Lack from the graph because the two virtually overlapped one another. Lack has a .899 save percentage at even strength, and a 3.30 goals against average.
Now, that's not good. There are many goaltenders who are in fact performing better than Peters at this point in the season at even strength, and that's pretty discouraging.
But, again, Peters has only played in seven games. That's not really enough of a sample size to make any sort of judgement. So, let's take a look at some other visuals to try to figure this out.
This chart shows all of the shots at even strength for this season. On the left, we see that Peters has seen some shots from some pretty high percentage areas. As you can see, the darker the green, the higher the opposition shooting percentage. On the right, you see the shot locations and shooting percentages in relation to the rest of the league. The redder, the worse. So, Peters does a little worse than the average goaltender.
But again, that's a small sample size. Let's include last years numbers as well.
But, let's go ahead and just include Peters' entire career, from 2009 to today.
Ok! That's good. We are seeing a little bit of blue on the board. They are in the low percentage areas, but remember, we are looking for some positives.
Just out of curiosity, I wanted to see what exactly Peters has difficulty with. It turns out Peters does a pretty bad in two different shot types over the course of his career....
Tip ins. To be fair, those are pretty difficult to stop.
But, I wanted to see how Peters compares to other goaltenders in the Caps past. The data at War On Ice only goes back to 2008. The Caps have dressed eight other goaltenders since that time. So let's look at the graph.
But, before we do, let's first understand what this graph measures. The y-axis of this graph measures adjusted save percentage. What is adjusted save percentage? Here's War On Ice's definition:
"This adjusts for the fact that some teams give up more high-quality shots, while others give up more low-quality shots. This is the weighted-average of SvPctHigh, SvPctMed, and SvPctLow, where the weights correspond to the league-wide percentage of shots from each of those areas. In other words, this is a goalies save percentage if they faced a league average proportion of shots from each of the three shooting zones (high, medium, and low probability of success). "
And here is a diagram of where the SvPctHigh (blue), SVPctMed (red) and SVPctLow (yellow):
Now, the x-axis measures unadjusted save percentage. The color measures the shots per game that the face on average. The bluer the more shots they face, the redder the less. Alright, so here's the graph.
OH GOD. Do you even see where Peters is located? Look in the lower left. No, lower. No, even lower. THAT IS NOT GOOD. That is really really bad. I mean, he is facing far less shots than every guy on that list...and he's doing vastly worse than Brent Johnson. Ugh, not good.
Ok, so everything you have seen makes Peters seem, well, pretty bad. So, what conclusion could I come up with?
He won't ever be great for the Caps. But, he will improve on his numbers.
Goaltenders tend to eventually head towards the league average. It can take some longer to get to than others, but they all eventually get there. The league average is .920. Peters won't get there. He never has. But, his career average before this season was .904. He will get there...eventually. He's only 28, and there is no reason to believe he will regress, as he's technically entering his prime years.
There is statistically no reason to believe we will see a vast improvement from what we are seeing now. Well, that's kind of a lie. Consistent .900 save percentage performances is better than his .727 save percentage efforts, like last game against Toronto. He's below average at even strength, and he is awful on the penalty kill, with the 64th ranked save percentage at just .667 (out of 67 goaltenders that have dressed this season).
I can't honestly say that Peters will vastly turn his game around like Holtby has. But, what I can say is that Peters won't consistently give up four or five goals a game. But, you should always be nervous when he mans the pipes.