Many hockey fans were at least somewhat familiar with the LA Kings goaltending travails at the beginning of the season. Fans of minor league hockey also understood that this trickled down to their AHL affiliate in Ontario.
However, while the Kings were trying to replace their Vezina trophy winning starting goaltender and his back-up, the Reign were also dealt a series of injuries that at one point had a netminder on a PTO in goal with his dad as the back-up.
During this period, the Reign were also having an uncharacteristically sluggish start. By Mid-November, they were sixth in the Pacific Division and barely a blip in the Western Conference. Fans were starting to grumble (they are used to a winning tradition, if you forget the second two seasons of their ECHL existence) and the coach was frustrated. The penalty kill was terrible, coming in around 70% effective, often destroying momentum or losing the Reign games.
On November 18th, Jack Campbell was returned to the Reign for good (at least, that’s what everyone is hoping for). Since then, the Reign have retaken the top spot in the Pacific Division, second in the Western Conference and fourth in the league.
But was it all goaltending?
We took a look at the stats to see what caused the change.
First, a look at the last line of defense.
Before November 18th, the Reign’s goals against average was 3.36 and their goals for average was 3.09. After the 18th, their GAA dropped to 2.62 while their GFA only dropped to 2.95. While both dipped, the larger drop in GAA started winning them games.
This leaves out, however, save percentage, which many feel is a better indicator of goaltending quality.
The SV% before 11/18/2016 was 0.87. After Campbell took the Reign’s reigns, it moved up to 0.90. Not a large increase and could possibly be attributed to more games played to even out the stats. There was also the outlier of game 23 (SV% 0.71), bringing down the post 11/18 average, but that wouldn’t raise it too much.
So maybe the defense finally settled in and began shutting the other teams down in the classic Reign/Kings style.
The shots against average actually went up, from 27.09 per game to 28.38 per game. On the offensive side, the shots per game dropped from 30.55 to 29.33.
More than anything, Ontario’s shooting percentage went up from 9.72% to 10.08%. If you remember our quarter mark stats report, the Reign’s PDO (luck) was on the low side at 0.93. Currently it is sitting even at 1.00.
Basically, Ontario’s luck turned around at about the same time as their goaltending situation was sorted out.