LAXMetrics Week 5: Dobson’s Case for Goaltender of the Year
January 3, 2024By: Cooper Perkins
Editor’s Note:LAXMetrics, powered by the NLL, is an innovative data approach to better understand the league. Cooper Perkins will break down these stats each week on NLL.com and the league’s social channels.
Georgia Swarm star Brett Dobson has been the early-season goaltender of the year. The race is exceedingly close, but Dobson deserves a narrow edge entering Week 6.
While traditional goaltending statistics suggest that Toronto’s Nick Rose might be the early leader in the clubhouse for Goaltender of the Year, Dobson’s advanced stats from LaxMetrics.com tell a different story.
Let’s start with Rose. A perennial contender for the league’s highest goaltending honor, Rose is off to a phenomenal star. His Goals Against Average (GAA) ranks first in the NLL at 8.33 and his save percentage is a sensational .829. Over the weekend, Rose stopped 41-of-49 shots, including 10-of-14 one-on-ones (1v1’s). Given those numbers, it might seem silly to suggest that another goalkeeper could be outplaying Rose.
Enter Brett Dobson.
Georgia’s second-year net minder has posted a 10.43 GAA and a save percentage of .797 — both excellent efforts, but neither as impressive as Rose’s body of work. Where Dobson has made his living is in the arena of stopping difficult shots.
Look no further than his performance against Buffalo over the weekend. Dobson stopped 12-of-14 1v1’s against the Bandits and held the reigning NLL Champions to eight goals despite Buffalo’s manufacturing a LaxMetrics-record 45 Total First Order Chances (high-quality scoring chances). Philadelphia’s Zach Higgins might have received more press for what he did in the Wings’ comeback win over Halifax, but Dobson’s effort was nothing short of Herculean. Make no mistake, Dobson won the game for Georgia.
As good as his weekend was, Dobson’s performance wasn’t a fluke or an aberration. Through five weeks, he has the best average ranking across the key LaxMetrics.com goaltending advanced stats. No goalie has been more consistently exceptional against extremely difficult shots than Dobson.
Obviously, not all shots are created equal. Generally speaking, one-on-one shots (1v1’s) are the most difficult saves for goaltenders to make. They pit a goalie against a shooter unimpeded and without the help of defensive pressure. Because of this truth, we can look to various metrics that build off 1v1’s to judge goalie performance in the context of degree of difficulty.
The following three LaxMetrics.com stats are the most valuable in judging goaltender performance: Percentage of Saves via 1-v-1 (% Sv 1-v-1), One-On-One Saves Per 60 Minutes (1v1 per 60), and Robberies Per 60 Minutes (Robberies per 60). While the first two are self-explanatory, Robberies requires a little bit of further explanation. Rather than focusing on one type of save, Robberies is an aggregate of three statistics: Saves Over Average (SVoA), Saves Over Expectations (SV o Exp.), and 1-v-1’s. At its core, the “Robberies” stat is designed to reflect the total number of goals that a goaltender has stolen from shooters. It is the quantity of shots that should have ended up as goals rather than saves.
Consider the below scatter chart that compares goalies based on Percentage of Saves via 1v1’s and Robberies Per 60 Minutes. The larger the circle, the greater the player’s Robberies Per 60 value. The darker the circle, the higher his Percentage of Saves Via 1v1s. Players in the top-left quadrant have struggled the most against a high proportion of difficult shots. Dillon Ward, for example, has made nearly 25% of his total saves in 1-v-1 situations. He also has struggled stopping those shots, which is reflected by his Robberies Per 60 Minutes value under two. In the eyes of this plot, Ward has struggled the most among goalies who have played 60 minutes or more.
Panther City’s Nick Damude reflects the opposite phenomenon. Damude has made relatively few of his saves in 1-v-1 situations (less than 10%), but has been roughly average in terms of his Robberies Per 60 Minutes (roughly 5.5). It’s virtually impossible for a goaltender to pile up a ton of Robberies while also maintaining a low Percentage of Saves via 1-v-1.
Dobson averages the second-most Robberies Per 60 Minutes (8.88), while making just over 17% of his total saves in 1-v-1 situations, which ranks third in the league. Rose, who we referenced earlier, occupies the same quadrant as Dobson. His 9.33 Robberies Per 60 Minutes leads the NLL, and his Percentage of Saves Via 1-v-1’s (15.7%) ranks fifth. If we stopped here, it wouldn’t be reasonable to suggest that Dobson has a case to be tiered ahead of Rose.
The real separation between Dobson and Rose has come in crunch time. There has been no goaltender more clutch than Dobson in terms of making difficult saves late in games.
Looking at the bar graph above, we can see that both Dobson and Rose have exceeded the league average for overall 1-v-1 Save % and 4th Quarter 1-v-1 Save %. But while their numbers have been comparable overall (Dobson .636 / Rose .625), Dobson has a significant advantage in 4th quarter 1-v-1 Save %.
In addition to posting a .757 1-v-1 Save % in the closing quarter of games, no goaltender has made more 1v1 saves in the 4th quarter than Dobson. His seven 4th-quarter 1v1 saves ranks ahead of Calgary’s Christian Del Bianco and San Diego’s Chris Origlieri, who have each compiled six. Dobson is the clutch king.
Is all this enough to say that Dobson has been significantly better than Rose or the other early contenders for Goaltender of the Year? Probably not. But the point isn’t to crown an award winner after five weeks. As is always the goal with LAXMetrics, we simply hope to improve the depth of conversation around the debate. If you only looked at the traditional goaltending stats, you’d probably think that Nick Rose is running away with the league’s top goaltending title. But as is often the case, the data suggests something different.
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