CEDAR PARK — Texas Stars coach Derek Laxdal is in an admirable and difficult position entering the playoffs.
He has two goalies “up and running,” but only one can be the Game 1 starter when Texas hosts the Rockford IceHogs on Friday night.
“Both are playing very well, and obviously that’s a positive going into the playoffs,” Laxdal said before the final game of the regular season. “Obviously that’s going to make it a harder decision for the starter on Friday night … it’s a good problem to have. Because it’s a problem we didn’t have in the first half of the season, and in the second half both guys have been very strong.”
It’s hard to find fault with either goalie in their past 15 appearances.
Jack Campbell is 11-4 in his past 15 games with a .925 save percentage and pair of shutouts. He’s also currently on a six-game win streak.
Jussi Rynnas is 9-3-2 with a .913 save percentage in his past 15 games. That stint was broken up by a lower-body injury on March 17, but he made back-to-back starts last week and stopped 84 of 88 shots against the San Antonio Rampage.
That included a 52-save performance in a 3-2 win, a franchise record for saves in a game and tied for the AHL’s top performance this season.
Let’s go further down the rabbit hole and look at quality starts.
For a refresher (or first-time introduction) here is the definition of a quality start, as broken down by HockeyAbstract.com’s Rob Vollman:
A Quality Start (QS) is when the goalie achieves at least the mean save percentage (for the season) in a game. For the 2013-2014 season that percentage is 91.5%. So, if Tuukka Rask allows only 2 goals on 28 shots (a 92.9% save percentage), that is considered a Quality Start. There is an additional criteria for low shooting games: if a goalie faces 20 or fewer shots, he only needs to get an 88.5% save percentage.
For the Texas we’ll use .913 as our mean number.
Rynnas had eight quality starts in 15 appearances. Campbell had nine.
That leaves seven non-quality starts for Rynnas and six for Campbell, let’s look at those.
For Campbell in games he didn’t post a quality start (once again, a .913 save percentage or higher) he allowed four goals or more in five of those six occurrences. When Rynnas’ save percentage was below .913 he allowed four goals on three of seven occasions.
Once again, hard to differentiate between a clear No. 1 and No. 2 goalie.
So, let’s look at their numbers against Rockford.
Rynnas didn’t play Rockford this season, so he’s at zeros across the board.
Campbell made four starts against the IceHogs and posted a .887 save percentage and 4.25 goals against average, Texas lost all four games (one in overtime). To be fair to Campbell, Texas did allow 151 shots against Rockford this year, or 37.5 per game.
No matter who starts Game 1, Texas could switch for Game 2. Former Stars coach Willie Desjardins went with that approach last season in the first two rounds of the playoffs and rotated Campbell with Cristopher Nilstorp.
It worked well as Texas swept the Oklahoma City Barons, and the rotation would have likely continued if Campbell didn’t get hurt against the Grand Rapids Griffins. At the time of his injury Campbell had a .917 save percentage in the playoffs.
Splitting time is an option. But would Laxdal consider rotating goalies?
“It’s a little bit different pecking order than in junior. Where you have an older guy in junior who you ride hard,” Laxdal said. “In pro, you’ve got to make that decision which way you’re going to go. Both guys have earned that opportunity to start and we’ll have to make that decision going forward.”