Monday, February 03, 2014

Eddie Lack: All-Rookie Team front-runner?

File:Eddie Lack Canucks.jpg
Lack is exceeding all expectations this year. And maintaining his entire
team's fading dignity in the process.

His numbers are among the league's elite. With a 2.22 GAA and .922 save percentage, Eddie Lack is tied for eighth and ninth in the NHL, respectively. Yet with a 8-8-3 record, he is one of only two goalies with a .500-or-worse record among the league's top 15 in GAA. The other goalie? Cory Schneider.

That speaks volumes. Because unlike the dispatched ginger in his tenure here, Lack has accomplished his top-level stats on what is now a truly mediocre team. The next-highest ranking goalie without a winning record is Justin Peters at 7-9-4 with Carolina.


In consecutive starts against Winnipeg and Detroit this past week, Lack has has turned in a couple of the best performances by a Canucks goalie this season -- both in losing causes. And as bad as the Canucks have been in their current four-game skid, if not for their standout rookie, two of those losses would have been uncontested blowouts (this in addition to their 5-2 drubbing against Chicago). It's hard to imagine things getting any bleaker for Vancouver, but just consider what back-to-back-to-back routs would have done to the players' collective psyche and the fans' outrage.

Despite letting in 4 goals on 34 shots against Winnipeg, Lack was far and away the best player on the ice. Such was the case again this evening as Lack turned away chance after chance after chance, including two shorthanded breakaways, one of which required a highlight reel second effort on Darren Helm.

In a season where moral victories and silver linings have been the rallying cry, consider this one the Canucks' story of the year. With Tanev out and Santorelli sidelined for the season, Lack remains the lone bright spot (my apologies to Ryan Stanton) in a year that is exponentially slipping out of control.

After having been gingerly developed in the AHL for a trio of seasons, Lack is turning in a Schneider-like start to his big league career. And while backup goalies won't ever get much attention for the Calder, he is making a very strong case for the All-Rookie Team -- an honour that no Canuck has received since Mattias Ohlund in 1998. Additionally, the last Canucks goaltender with the distinction was Corey Hirsch in 1996.. (And we all know how much we want Lack to turn into the next Corey Hirsch.)

By comparison, Schneider had the disadvantage of starring in a season that saw a disproportionate number of rookie goalies in starting roles for teams (Michal Neuvirth, Sergei Bobrovsky, James Reimer and Corey Crawford, the latter of which won the All-Rookie's goaltending spot). The landscape in 2012-13, however, proves to be completely different.

In order for a goalie's stats to rank among the league leaders, he needs to have played in at least 30% of his team's games (recall the 25-game threshold that Schneider needed to achieve in order to be a co-winner of the Jennings). Among rookie goalies, only Lack, Frederik Andersen (18 games), Antti Raanta (19) and Marek Mezanec (25) currently meet that criteria.


While Lack's numbers ranks second to Andersen in both GAA and save percentage, the Anaheim goalie's 18 games played is just barely above the 30% threshold. Granted, playing a minimum number of games isn't a requirement for the All-Rookie Team. But Lack's four additional appearances speaks to a more representative sample size (over a full season, Lack is projected to appear in 32 games to Andersen's 25). More tellingly, Andersen is getting the full Schneider treatment as a backup on the league's best team, while the Canucks are just barely hanging on to a playoff spot.

All things considered, Lack is arguably at the head of his class -- or at least very close to it.

To be fair, having to beat out just three other goalies to be considered the best in any class is objectively unremarkable. And in the context of the Canucks becoming an increasingly irrelevant team, nitpicking Lack's statistics to that of Anaheim's backup is sure to seem completely desperate.

But if Lack continues this kind of play in relief of Luongo (which may be increasingly necessary given the starter's potential role for Canada in two weeks' time), you sincerely hope that he gets recognized for it. Come April, it may be the only silver lining left.

-HC



All-Time Canucks on the NHL All-Rookie Team
*Jim Sandlak - 1987
*Trevor Linden - 1989
*Corey Hirsch - 1996
*Mattias Ohlund - 1998

Related BTD Articles
Pavel Bure and the NHL's All-Rookie foul
Zac Dalpe, Eddie Lack and the AHL All-Rookie Team

3 comments:

  1. Luongo's not a bright spot? He's been great!

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    1. Mm, yah for sure. The Canucks' goaltending as a whole, then. I suppose the way I had conceptualized it is that Lu is more or less playing at a level that we expect of him, whereas Lack isn't, which is what makes him such a nice story for the Canucks. Especially now in Santo's absence.

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  2. Great article!

    I am incredibly surprised how well Lacks played this season. For one, he's a rookie. For two, he was injured most of last season in the AHL. Both of those meant he was in for a tough season, IMO. But he's been lights out. In fact, he's been their most consistent tender this yr.

    Very disappointed in Luongos season. I was hoping last season was a 'one off', and he could find his rhythm in Van this yr - even though he prob doesn't want to be here. But he's been pretty bad. For the first 1/3 of the season, he had one of the leagues worst even strength SV%. Then he played really well for a month, got injured - came back and is bad. You can't have $5.3M invested in a position that shows up for a month. Luckily, Lack has been really good for a rookie.

    I am more a fan of EV SV% over the regular SV% - for a number of reasons. As the stats nerds. But Luongo and Lacks EV SV% are nearly identical. Both are over league average, but not considered elite. Andersen is at a .930 EV SV%, that is elite. But of course, he gets to play in front of a team that's been mostly healthy all season. Van has been an infirmary all yr - esp on the back end. And Andersen didn't spend most of last season rehabbing injury. Basically, advantage Lack.

    Whatever Gillis does, he better not trade Lack and keep Luongo. Lu is a great goalie, has been an elite goalie in this league for many years. But I'm afraid we've started to see his decline. Canucks need a goalie who's on the 'up and up' - Lack just might be that guy.

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