Is everyone ok? I know my heart rate still goes up every time I think about the Gold Medal game. The emotions are still there for the fans and you can bet they are still there for the players. I know I’m not over the result yet and probably won’t be for the next 4 years until Canada has a chance to regain Gold. In order to mitigate the pain let’s focus on the goalies of the tournament and their individual success because it was a tournament of goalies and here’s why.
Best Avg. SV% for Goalies in an Olympic Year
The strides goaltending have made in the women’s tournament over the last 20 years have been incredible and has resulted in the best Olympics we’ve seen from goalies. The goalies at the Olympics in the past years have been good however the results haven’t shone through until recently as this Olympics the average SV% hit a new high (for the Olympics, record for highest Avg SV% in a top level women’s international hockey tournament goes to the 2011 World Hockey Championships). If you look at the chart below you’ll notice how inconsistent the average SV% has been in past years, lots of spikes and drops. Now we’re seeing growth and while the average SV% for the 2019 WHC will most likely drop it should still be +0.900 due to team strength and goalie strength. Teams are putting more funding into goaltending because it’s the ultimate equalizer and teams will notice it even more after this tournament.
Keeping Up With the Legends
Going into this tournament we had the Top 3 goalies in the game today as well as in women’s hockey history: Shannon Szabados, Noora Raty, and Florence Schelling. The separation between the three of them is razor thin and the spotlight was on them this Olympics as there’s a high chance this will be the last Olympics we see all three of them in. So how did they do in comparison to each other?
We’ll start with the number 1 goalie from 2017 and in the history of the game, Canadian Shannon Szabados. From the chart above Szabados obviously fared the best among the three of them and was rewarded for her efforts by being named the tournament’s Top Goalie. Among the rest of the field Szabados finished first in SV% and second in Goals Saved Above Average while posting a 1.000 Quality Starts % keeping her Olympic Quality Starts streak alive. On the ice Szabados was just as good as the stats said, especially so in the Gold Medal Game. It’s intimidating going up against a goalie like Szabados because she understands her size and the advantages it gives her as well as how locked in she gets. Szabados dictates her game and doesn’t allow her opponents to do so which is why it took Team USA a shootout to finally beat her in an Olympic game. When you’re the no. 1 goalie you can’t go up anymore. What Szabados did though is make it incredibly difficult for Noora Raty or Florence Schelling to knock her off the throne.
Noora Raty was the 2nd best goalie coming into the Olympics however she had the rougher time statistically compared to Szabados and Schelling. Despite that though she earned herself a spot on the Media All-Star team and it’s hard to argue against that fact. Raty was in a weird spot where she didn’t get to play against the Pool B competition to help her stats and her team was good enough to lower the volume of shots on net especially against the North American teams. What her team wasn’t good at though was limiting the defensive breakdowns which lead to goals. For example the game vs Canada (4 goals on 32 shots) and the 2nd game vs the USA (5 goals on 38 shots). This was prevalent against the lower ranked teams like Sweden and Russia. Raty would only allow 2 goals against but the shot volume was so low that it didn’t reach that 0.920 SV% level needed to register a quality start. This all lead to Raty posting her worst Olympic year in terms of statistics since her first Olympic year in Torino. Raty was a joy to watch though and you had to feel for her especially in the semi-final game where she was the only Finnish player to play at full effort for the entire game. Raty leaves these Olympics with her 2nd Bronze Medal and her first Olympic accolade (All-Star Team).
Last but not least is Florence Schelling who was the 3rd best goalie coming into this tournament and lived up to her billing both on the ice as well as statistically. As seen above she was the 2nd best statistically out of the three. Schelling was great throughout the tournament except for one game, the quarterfinal versus Russia. This particularly hurt her stats as allowing 5 goals on 20 shots is going to hurt anyone’s stats in a short tournament. That was Schelling’s first “Really Bad Start” statistically that she ever posted in the Olympics and it prevented her from potentially claiming the top spot for Wins in the Olympic history (women’s tournament) as according to Schelling she wasn’t even dressed for the 2nd game against Korea due to her play versus Russia. Schelling though left the tournament on a very high note with a 1-0 shutout win against Japan for Switzerland’s second 5th place finish at the Olympics. When you watched the games it was obvious how Schelling is nearly a clone of Szabados. Both see the game very well and know what the possibilities are for each situation. The difference in this tournament was that Schelling had one game of weakness at a pivotal time whereas Szabados was solid throughout. Despite the Russian game though Schelling did very well in cementing herself in the top 2 for goalies in Olympic history.
The best thing about the Olympics is the stage that comes with it. The various *insert number here* Nations and World Hockey Championship tournaments take place every year but none of them come close to the coverage that is the Olympics. With this stage we get the chance to see new heroes begin their journey towards stardom as they take on the role of starter.
The Swedish situation headed into the 2018 Olympics is best described as chaos. After a 4th place finish in Sochi it’s been downhill fast for the Swedish national team which has floundered at every tournament since Sochi in a significantly large part due to Head Coach Leif Boork. Sweden has lost significant ground to its rival Finland and in this past WHC they saw Germany make it further than them. So going into the Olympics expectations weren’t high and the Swedes still disappointed ending up in the 7th place game which they did win however a 7th place finish for Sweden is a massive fall from grace. Despite the terrible situation Sara Grahn came out of the Olympics as a very big bright spot for the Swedes. As obvious from above she made the largest impact on the ice as a new Olympic starter and even claimed the top spot in GSAA. Grahn’s performance was also statistically close to Kim Martin’s stats from the 2002 and 2006 Olympics. If the Swedes are going to work their way back to the top they’ll need a goalie to lead the way and Grahn has put herself in the running to be the next Kim Martin.
The USA has seen a youth movement happening with its goalies over the past few years. They’ve gone from Jessie Vetter to Alex Rigsby to Nicole Henlsey and now Maddie Rooney. Next tournament I’m sure they’ll find someone younger than Rooney to start at the 2019 WHC. All kidding aside what a debut on the international stage for Maddie Rooney who had never been the starter for the USA at a major international tournament, not even at the Under-18 level. It wasn’t a perfect tournament from Rooney as there were definitely moments of jitters and inconsistency. She fought through it though and for her efforts became the 2nd American starting goalie to win a Gold Medal at the Olympics. Overall this tournament saw Rooney finish 5th in GSAA and 2nd in SV% showing that her efforts on the ice translated to successful results.
Russia went through a huge youth movement this Olympics with only two players on the roster over the age of 30. This movement was especially obvious in net as the Russian trio featured one 32yo goalie in Nadezhda Alexandrova then a very sharp drop off to Nadezhda Morozova at age 21 and Valeria Tarakanova at age 19. With Alexandrova being the eldest and having the most Olympic experience it wouldn’t have been surprising to see her be the starter. However Morozova earned the starting position and held onto it throughout the tournament. Now statistically this wasn’t a great tournament from Morozova. This happens though when you play for the 4th best team in a 4-team pool where there are two sharks, a piranha and you are the goldfish. Even though Morozova’s team was outmatched she shined through in every game she played. It was fun watching her unique style of play. She liked to sit back in a very conservative manner knowing how good her opponents were at passing the puck. She was able to play this way because of her strong base of physical skills as well as strong puck tracking ability. As Morozova matures she’ll cut out the inconsistencies and youthful mistakes that showed up at this tournament making Russia the competitive team it can be.
Going into this tournament the hope was United/South Korea would avoid the fate that befell the Italians at the 2006 Winter Games. The way this tournament was organized with the bottom 4 teams in the same pool was meant to mitigate the chances of blowout games. Seeing Korea wrecked by 16 and 11 goal differentials is not what helps to grow the game and keep fans interested. Of course it was starting to look that way when Korea lost 8-0 in consecutive games. So Jung Shin though did what she could to keep fighting through the tidal waves of offense which allowed her team to turn it around and get involved in some competitive games versus Japan as well as the second game against Switzerland. So Jung Shin also managed to avoid the fate of posting the worst numbers of an Olympic starter despite her team currently sitting in Division I Group B, two levels below the Top Division. Compared to the Olympics So Jung Shin should be heading into the Division I Group B tournament later this spring feeling good about herself as she’s already faced the toughest competition possible and was able to compete.
Impact on Olympic History
As each Olympic Tournament comes to an end another layer of history is added. This year was great as we saw records being tied, broken, then tied, and finally broken again. We’ll start with the All-Time Olympic Wins Record. Before the tournament started Canadian Kim St-Pierre was the holder of the record with 8 wins to her credit. When the 2018 Olympics ended we saw Florence Schelling and Noora Raty break it, tie, break it, and then ended up tied with a total of 10 wins. Schelling though holds two individual distinctions, the first being the All-Time Olympic Shutout Record holder with 5 shutouts breaking the record previously held by Kim St-Pierre (edit: counting mistake was made and it was previously written Schelling only tied the record) and being the first to hit the 10-win plateau in the 1-0 win over Japan. There's still one record that Kim St-Pierre is still on top of, All-Time Olympic Wins by a Canadian Goalie as she's now tied for first with Shannon Szabados who each have 8 wins to their credit.
Speaking of Szabados she’s currently the holder of the longest Quality Start streak in Olympic history with 9 straight Quality Starts. The records of course don’t stop there for the Canadian goaltender. Szabados holds the most Top 3 SV% finishes in the Olympics with three and is tied for first with Kim Martin/Florence Schelling for most Top 3 GSAA finishes with three as well in one less Olympic appearance than the Martin/Scheling. Another record Schelling and Szabados share together is most Olympic Individual awards. Schelling’s three are being named Olympic MVP, Top Goalie, and All-Star team while Szabados’ are two-time Top Goalie and one-time All-Star team.
List of Other Accomplishments:
-Janine Alder becomes the only Swiss goalie to record a win and a shutout not named Florence Schelliing
-Maddie Rooney becomes the youngest starting goalie to win a Gold Medal
-This is the most goalies we’ve seen have ice time at the Olympics (18)
-So Jung Shin ends 3rd on the All-Time Olympic Shots Against/60 list with 48.4 SA/60
-Florence Schelling and Noora Raty tie Kim Martin for Olympic Appearances (4)
-Shannon Szabados becomes the first NA goalie to be the starter for three Olympic Tournaments
-Florence Schelling and Noora Raty are the first goalies to hit the +1000 minutes played mark in the Olympics
Last but not least is an update on the GSAA leaders as well as the GSAA per an Olympic Appearance leaders (both charts below). First off Florence Schelling holds her top spot in All-Time Olympic GSAA while Szabados closes the gap. Just outside of the Top 10 Sara Grahn and Genevieve Lacasse have worked their way into a position where one more solid Olympic appearance puts them into the top. I personally like GSAA/Appearance because it shows the consistency of a goalie’s impact through Olympic tournaments and as you can see it’s difficult to put together big Olympic tournaments back-to-back which makes Florence Schelling’s and Shannon Szabados’ placement on this list very impressive.