STAT MONGERING: Is Lalime Really That Bad?

STAT MONGERING: Is Lalime Really That Bad?

(WECK 1230) — He’s likable enough, this Patrick Lalime character, with his wool hat and his Clooneyesque five o’clock shadow. The 36-year-old goaltender who just last year posted wins over Chicago and Pittsburgh (WHAT?!? They lost to a backup goaltender?!?!) has only seen action when there isn’t room on the road bench for the second-string netminder.

But this morning I thought to myself, could he really be that bad? Is Lalime such a calamity between the pipes that they call up a rookie when Ryan Miller needs a rest?

The answer for the stat monger, quite simply, is, “No.”

STAT NO. 1: Limited sample size

As Sabres fans know all-too-well, Ryan Miller has played an awful lot. Only Cam Ward, Miikka Kiprusoff and Carey Price have seen more ice time than Buffalo’s backstop. Ilya Bryzgalov has also played nearly as much as Miller. How have their No. 2s fared?

Carolina: Justin Peters 11 GP, 7 GS,  3-4-1, 3.88 GAA, .880 save pct.
Calgary: Henrik Karlsson 13 GP, 9 GS, 4-3-4, 2.63 GAA, .900 save pct.
Montreal: Alex Auld 10 GP, 9 GS, 4-2-1, 2.56 GAA, .920 save pct.
Buffalo: Patrick Lalime 7 GP, 4 GS, 0-5-0, 2.96 GAA, .890 save pct.
Phoenix: Jason Labarbera, 16 GP, 14 GS, 6-6-3, 3.43 GAA, .900 save pct.

STAT NO. 2: Strength of opponent

This is going to end up reading like quite the judgment of Lindy Ruff, but it’s a little bizarre that Lalime’s four starts have come against high quality teams: Chicago, Dallas, Tampa and Montreal. Tampa and Chicago are Nos. 5 and 6 in the  NHL in goals-per-game, while the Habs and the Stars goal totals have dropped significantly following hot starts to the season (Each led their respective divisions for a good deal of 2010-11).

Jhonas Enroth has performed well during his call-ups and his latest stop with the Sabres was a highlight of a performance versus Montreal. His goals against average of 2.70 and save percentage of .906 are superior to Lalime’s digits.

Truth is, Enroth is not only a better prospect but a better goaltender right now, but he’s also in the zone of playing often. He also had the fortune of playing regularly when he played, including back-to-back nights on Nov. 10 and 11. His opponents in starts? Boston (pulled), Toronto, New Jersey, the Rangers, Pittsburgh and Montreal. Only the Bruins are in the league’s Top Ten in goals-per-game, while only Pittsburgh is near Buffalo — equal — in that category, scoring 2.77 per contest.

STAT NO. 3:  The wrong numbers

Here’s an opinion I find to be irrefutable: Lalime is the Sabres No. 3 goaltender. Honestly, his number should be compared to the third-best goaltender in any organization. I won’t defend Ruff for starting Miller in 30-plus consecutive games, but I will defend the idea of having your No. 2 goaltender constantly getting work over in Portland.

The Sabres organization clearly trusts Kevin Dineen, Eric Weinrich and company to prepare Enroth to be the club’s eventual No. 2. There’s also very little question Lalime knew what he was signing up for when he re-inked with Buffalo, given that Enroth was given the reigns when Miller was injured early in the campaign.

After all, Lalime was the only teammate mentioned in Miller’s Vezina speech and Miller is certainly someone you want to psychologically keep at ease. It’s not like the team simply freaked out with Lalime struggled in his first two starts. If that’s the case, Darcy Regier and perhaps even Ruff are inept regardless of ownership. I don’t believe that’s true.

CONCLUSION: You don’t have to love Patrick Lalime, but he’s fine for the current job if he accepted his responsibilities early. I’m assuming this represents a stab at forward-thinking by the Sabres brass to have Enroth playing regularly while actually the team’s No. 2, but that shouldn’t play into how you judge Lalime. Whether or not you like the organizational philosophy, Lalime is being unfairly judged on a horrible misplay that is being magnified by his small sample size.

Email: nickonweck@gmail.com

9 Responses to STAT MONGERING: Is Lalime Really That Bad?

  1. Greg says:

    One stat you forgot to compare is record.

    Carolina: Justin Peters 11 GP, 7 GS, 3-4-1, 3.88 GAA, .880 save pct.
    Calgary: Henrik Karlsson 13 GP, 9 GS, 4-3-4, 2.63 GAA, .900 save pct.
    Montreal: Alex Auld 10 GP, 9 GS, 4-2-1, 2.56 GAA, .920 save pct.
    Buffalo: Patrick Lalime 7 GP, 4 GS, 0-5-0, 2.96 GAA, .890 save pct.
    Phoenix: Jason Labarbera, 16 GP, 14 GS, 6-6-3, 3.43 GAA, .900 save pct.

    of the ones you chose to compare, only one (besides Lalime) has failed to get the 1/2 of the points in the games he’s played in, and to be fair, Justin Peters is 1 point short of that feat.

    I think the Sabres fell behind so early we can’t afford to be giving games away which Lalime 0-5 seems to be. He’s a good guy, a good team-mate. But when he is in the game the Sabres seem to lose.

  2. John in SLC says:

    The stat that matters is 0-5-0. Lalime has the ability to play great for most of the game, as long as he screws up just enough to lose. He should never start another game for the Sabres unless Miller is hurt and Enroth is unavailable for some reason. OK, keep him around till the end of the year to be available to go into a game if Miller is injured during the game, and because he’s good for Miller’s sense of well being. Next year, get Miller a puppy, promote Enroth, and find a new promising young goalie to groom, for the time in two or three years when either Miller jumps ship to a team with its head on straight, or melts down from too much work. Maybe that’s too many metaphors. Oh well.

    • Nick says:

      John, Greg, I’m not saying either of you is wrong. It’s just that Lalime is here in case Miller needs to get out of a game. The plan was for Enroth to be the No. 2 all year. Lalime isn’t a bag of crap, he’s a no. 3 goalie who also is a security blanket for Miller.

  3. Lalime has stunk in his meager playing time this year and he may well be finished now, but he’s been more than an adequate backup for his career in Buffalo.

    I’ve been yelled at about this before because Lalime’s W-L record is poor, and I’m saying that folks like John are wrong. Using team records as the main statistic to rate an individual is silly. But, that’s hockey fans.

    St. Lindy/Darcy’s handling of goalies has always puzzled me. What are they trying to do with Enroth? I could understand if Enroth was your guy for the future, and you want to ensure he gets valuable experience in Portland. But, he’s not. Miller is your guy for at least another 3 years, probably more. If Enroth is your #2, then have him as your backup. Why in the F do the Sabres have Lalime on their bench if they obviously don’t have confidence in him? And don’t tell me it’s because he’s a good locker room presence because it’s bullpoop.

  4. John in SLC says:

    Leelee has a good point about Enroth and the timing of things. I figure that Enroth comes up to the Sabres next year, either Miller or Enroth will be traded the year after next, and the Sabres will pick up another decent backup or develop one next year.

    But Leelee, I think you’re wrong about using won-lost records to evaluate individuals in team games. Baseball pitchers and hockey goalies are both the most important factors in their team’s success, and it makes sense to include their won-lost record in evaluating their performance. People even extend that to football quarterbacks, and that’s when I think it’s less clear.

  5. drwho62 says:

    Lalime’s greatest sin is that he is not Miller. Yeah, he gave up that brutal turnover against TB in a 2-1 loss. The O scored 1 goal against TB. Lalime was just brutal on the offensive end in that game. NM has it figured out PL is the #3. If PL is OK by Miller, he’s okay by me.

  6. Brad says:

    Great post by Nick, as usual. I was absolutely incredulous when Mike Harrington (I think – if it wasn’t him then whoever – but someone at the BN did it) called Lalime’s gaffe in the TB game “the worst goal ever” or something to that effect. It was bad, but off the top of my head, I can think of several that were much worse. 1) Miller, in an attempt to clear a puck behind his net, accidentally put the puck into his own net early last season. I think it was against Boston. It doesn’t get much worse than that. 2) The sainted Marty Biron let one in from the far blue line on a clearing attempt while the Sabres were on a PP. The opposing team fired one off the glass and out of the zone – Biron just kind of drifted back behind his net, waiting for the puck. Clearly, he wasn’t actually watching the puck, because it went off the glass at center ice and angled into the Biron’s net (which he was standing behind). That might be the worst goal ever, actually. 3) Chris Osgood has given up a number of “worst goal ever” goals. Generally, any unscreened, undeflected slapshot from the (near) blue line that beat him 5-hole. I remember one like that against Columbus back when Osgood was an Islander. That’s just awful. 4) Chris Drury’s OT winner against Emery in the 2006 playoffs. It was a slapshot from the top of the circle that Emery appeared to have no chance on because he was a foot and a half off his angle. 5) Robert Esche. 6) The goal Brodeur gave up in game 7 of the Cup finals against Anaheim where he went to corral a dump-in, dropped his stick, and had the puck deflect in on him off his dropped stick. That was epically bad, but it’s forgetten since the Devils won the game and the Cup. 7) Fleury, while playing for team Canada in the WJC – in the gold medal game against the US in ’04 (I think), went to clear a puck up the middle and put it right into the chest of a US forechecker. The puck bounced off the guy’s USA crest and into Fleury’s net. Ultimately, it cost Canada the gold that year.

    Finally, THIS season, Panther’s goalie Tomas Vokoun had the puck on his stick, in his crease, and he decided to go up the middle with an attempted outlet pass. He put it right on the tape of a Carolina player, who happily deposited it in the net as Vokoun scrambled to get into position. Florida lost the game 4-3. At the very least, that goal is on par with what Lalime did. Nevertheless, I say Vokoun’s gaffe is worse. In Lalime’s case, he MADE THE FIRST SAVE after he gave the puck away. The player then dug the puck out from underneath him and scored. The Buffalo D was (of course) nowhere to be found. In Vokoun’s case, he gave the puck away and failed to make the save.

  7. Brad says:

    How could I forget Tommy Salo’s miscue in the Olympics? The dump-in off his head and into the net against Belarus might be one of the most famous “bad goals” in one of the biggest upsets in history. Sweden beats Belarus 100 out of 100 times – except for that one.

    All of these goals are much, much worse than Lalime’s. And these are just goals that I happen to remember. Whichever reporter wrote that Lalime’s goal was the worst ever should be required to issue a public apology. I’m serious.

  8. Nick says:

    I remember Sean Burke or Craig Billington of the Devils putting one in his own net at some point in my youth