Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Mailbag: Could you save half the shots in an NHL game? Plus a Lindros what-if, a Scrabble challenge and more

I forgot to do a January mailbag. Does that mean you’ll get two in February? It does not. Look, if the Habs can take an entire month off then I can too.

Note: Submitted questions have been edited for clarity and style.

My question is one that has been furiously debated amongst my friends for years. If an average beer league hockey player (skater, not a goalie) were to suit up as a goalie in an NHL game, what would be a reasonable estimate of that person’s save percentage?

The only caveats to the hypothetical would be that the other players on the ice wouldn’t be “aware” of the person’s lack of goaltending skill, and the person wouldn’t get pulled from the net despite the clear underperformance in goal (they could finish the entire game). Most of us believe that our save percentage would be infinitesimally small, however we do have one friend that ardently posts his own over/under at 50%.

As the internet’s foremost authority on hockey hypotheticals, help us settle this debate once and for all. Has history shown that a 0.500 save percentage is doable for a run-of-the-mill men’s leaguer? Has goalie equipment gotten big enough for even the average skater to step in the way of a majority of NHL shots? Have players gotten so skilled at defensive play they’d be able to reasonably offset this obvious detriment in net? Would attempting to stop an Alex Ovechkin one-timer send the average person to the hospital? Appreciate your input. – Bryan C.

I read this submission, stared at it for a while, and then had to email Bryan back with a follow-up question: Do the other players on the ice not realize the goalie is just a regular guy at first, or can they somehow not figure it out through the entire game? Bryan clarified that it’s the latter – nobody else changes anything about their game, meaning your team can’t go all-out on defense and the other team isn’t bombing shots from the red line. It’s a normal NHL game in every way except for you, an average beer leaguer who’s never played net until right now.

My verdict: Bryan’s friend who thinks he could finish a game over .500 is out of his mind.

I mean, come on. Yes, you’d make some saves, just by virtue of the puck hitting you. (And that’s all it would be; you would absolutely not be able to move in time to do anything to an NHL player’s slapshot.) But if you’re going to play a full game and face, let’s say, 30 shots, there’s virtually zero chance you’re lucky enough to have half of them go into your chest.

Remember: David Ayres, who had a few decades of experience as a goaltender and will live in history forever as the gold standard for miracle “regular guy” performances, only had an .800 save percentage in that game. You think somebody who doesn’t even know which leg the pads go on is going to get anywhere close to that? Madness.

The only caveat I’ll allow for is that Bryan doesn’t say anything about injuries, and there’s an excellent chance that any NHL shot you faced would destroy you. If your first play is an Ovechkin one-timer that turns your collarbone into powder and you leave on a stretcher having made one save on one shot, I guess that would count. But that’s your only hope.

Is it too soon to say Kakko and Lafreniere are busts? Because I’m starting to worry. What does history say about players their age with their expectations/hype? – Skinny Peet

Oh good, I’m sure all the Rangers fans who complain I don’t talk about their team enough will be thrilled now.

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