In goal: Juuse Saros or the little giant

If Juuse Saros played in Montreal, we would certainly call him Jesus Saros. What the NHL’s smallest goaltender (5’11) is accomplishing in net for the Nashville Predators is supernatural.

We saw him mock the Ottawa Senators on Monday night in a 38-save shutout. Thursday, he stopped 64 shots in a 5-3 victory at Carolina, but we’re only talking about two anecdotal games here. It is above all his consistency over the years that is prodigious.

Saros is the Jaroslav Halak of spring 2010, but year after year. His “worst” season since joining the NHL in 2016-17 was 2019-20 with a respectable 17-12-4/.914/2.70 record. Enough to make Carey Price, Marc-André Fleury, Henrik Lundqvist and his former partner in Nashville, Pekka Rinne, jealous. They each had more difficult seasons.

Another revealing observation: among goalkeepers who have played at least 200 games since 2016, the Finn shares 1st place in the overall efficiency rate with Andrei Vasilevskiy and Darcy Kuemper, at 0.920. His quality start rate of 66% over six seasons is second only to Kuemper at 66.5%.

He ranked fourth in our Top 30 in 2020-21 and second in 2021-22 in addition to being a Vézina Trophy finalist.

dynamite

A fierce competitor, the 27-year-old Finn defies the odds at a time when scouts are looking for net giants. The 9th goalkeeper drafted in 2013 compensates for his small size with a precise positional game based on his great explosiveness, both in reaction and in movement. Its control of the blades, its compactness and also its flexibility are part of its recipe.

And he has this gift of tracing the puck well when it rebounds from his body, then repositioning himself instantly to face the return, using the front split if necessary.

Tendency to giants

In the 1990s and early 2000s, I often compared the effectiveness of goaltenders by size. There were stars in every group, but overall the 6′ and 6’1″ gatekeepers performed better than the 6’2″ plus “giants” who weren’t moving very well at the time. The other two groups were holding their own, the 5’10 and 5’11, as well as the 5’9 and under.

Today, little goalies are now under 6’2″ and there are eight of them in the top 50 goalies.

This block has a .903 save percentage, almost equivalent to the 26 average goalies (6’2″ and 6’3″) who are at .904. The small and medium goalies are below the overall average of .906. It’s the class of 16 doormen who are at least 6’4” that performs best at .911.

So we understand recruiters looking for big guys, but you still have to know how to recognize talent, and in this regard, several NHL teams lose their luck when it comes time to evaluate goaltenders.

There will always be a Saros somewhere, but it will probably be at least six feet tall.

Guardian of the week

Saros is also our employee of the week with a record of 3-0-0/.955/2.00 and an average of 44 shots per game and a jump of four places in the top 30. He is 4th. Our top 3 remains unchanged.

In goal: Juuse Saros or the little giant