Commentary

Roloson, Thomas best in 'Danger Zone'

Goalies in Eastern Conference finals have excelled against high-percentage shots

Updated: May 10, 2011, 4:06 PM ET
By Neil Greenberg | Special to ESPN Insider
RolosonGreg Fiume/Getty ImagesDwyane Roloson is saving almost 90 percent of "dangerous shots" in this year's playoffs.

Goalies make their reputations in the playoffs and the line between a superhuman effort that steals a game and one that ultimately sends the team packing is usually a thin one.

If they make key saves at key times, they give their teams the best possible chance at winning and earning the label of "clutch" along the way. One large part of earning that label -- and helping a team to victory -- is how a goalie handles dangerous shots.

Dangerous shots are those that originate from within the scoring chance area, which is loosely defined as the square area from the top of the circles inside the faceoff dots to the goal line. By looking at only these dangerous shots, we help level the playing field among goaltenders and eliminate routine saves.

Game 3 of the series between the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning is a good example of how not all shots on goal are created equally. After only four minutes of play, Washington had three shots on net -- all saved by Dwayne Roloson -- that all originated more than 80 feet from the net. (The shots were more attempts to get past coach Guy Boucher's 1-3-1 trap than actual attempts to score.) By eliminating those types of shots, we gain a better understanding of how goaltenders fare when faced with legitimate scoring chances. And we can see which of the remaining goalies has performed best when their opponents have had the best chances to strike.

Neil Greenberg is ESPN Insider's NHL analytics expert. His columns have appeared on the Washington Post website, and he is a regular guest on Sirius XM NHL Radio.