Looking back on this season, it is evident that Juus Saros is getting better and his role with the Nashville Predators will increase in the near future.
In June of 2013, the Nashville Predators selected the 23-year-old Finnish netminder in the 4th round of NHL Entry Draft. Since then, Juuse Saros has been nothing but solid for the club, posting a strong 2.35 goals against average and a .925 save percentage in his first season. Heading into the 2017-2018 season, expectations were high and to no one’s surprise, he delivered.
In this, his second full season, the young goaltender had another strong performance in goal for the Nashville Predators this past season. As the backup once again, Saros appeared in 26 games, 23 of which he started, en route to an 11 win and 5 loss record. This included three shutouts in a span of five starts against the NHL’s league-leading point scorer Connor McDavid, the Clarence Campbell Bowl champions the Vegas Golden Knights and the Minnesota Wild. He also finished 15th in Goals Against Average (GAA) among goaltenders who played at least 300 minutes with a 2.45 GAA and finished in the 10th position in Save Percentage (Sv%) notching a .925 SV%.
Better than that
When you dig a little deeper into his advanced analytics from the regular season, it becomes incredibly apparent just how good Saros was. First and foremost, his Delta/Adjusted Save Percentage (dSV%) of 1.67 placed him 5th in the league for goaltenders who played at least 300 minutes. This means that Juuse Saros fared much better compared to how an average goalie would have performed when facing the same quality and quantity of shots.
His strong play can also be seen when examining other advanced analytics, including Low and High Danger Scoring Save Percentage. This is clear as Saros recorded higher numbers than his goaltending partner, Pekka Rinne. His HDsv% of 84.17 in the regular season was in fact good enough for 11th among NHL netminders who played at least 300 minutes. This placement sees him ranked higher than the likes of world-class goaltenders Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, and Vezina Trophy favorite Andrei Vasilevskiy. That is pretty impressive, to say the least.
Saros also finished the season in the top 10 in Goals Saved Above Average (CSAA) with a CSAA of 1.36. For all you baseball fans out there, the stat is the hockey equivalent to WAR and basically means that if average goalie faced the exact same quality shots and chances, they would have given up 1.36 more goals than Saros on the season. All though it may not sound like a lot, one extra goal can be the difference between winning and losing a game and thus, not making it into the playoffs.
Stepping Up When It Counts
Speaking of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Juuse Saros was fantastic when he was called upon. Now, he did only play limited minutes, 114 to be exact, but he still looked sharp. After all, he turned away 40 of 42 shots he faced, no bigger than his big save on Paul Stastny at the midway point of the second period in Game 7.
— NHL (@NHL) May 11, 2018
Although the Predators went on to lose the contest and have their season end much too soon, Saros’s performance in the contest was gutsy as he tried to keep his team alive.
At the conclusion of the Predators playoff run, Saros finished with a .952 Sv%, which currently sees him sit at the top of the leaderboard out of all qualified NHL netminders as Fleury and Holtby battle for the Stanley Cup.
Looking back on Saros’s season, there is no doubt that the Finnish netminder took another big step this season by playing more games than last year and by improving his Sv%, arguably the most telling stat in hockey. With this in mind, and considering that Saros did his job as a backup by lessening the load for Rinne, while also picking up wins for his club, there’s no denying that he had a successful season.
All in all, Saros should receive an A for his performance during the 2017-2018 campaign with the Nashville Predators.