Tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. ET the 2019 IIHF Women’s World Championship semifinals will begin with a game between Team Canada and Team Finland. In order to understand how the final four teams reached the semifinals, it’s important to understand what they had to overcome. Although the tournament is not yet over, one of the defining storylines in Espoo has been the landscape of exceptional goaltending from teams in both Group A and Group B.
In a tournament that featured four group stage games over a span of six days, quality goaltending and goaltending depth have both proven to be critical. In Group B alone, there were four teams that finished with a team save percentage north of .920; in Group A, only Team USA (.943) and Team Canada (.925) finished above that mark.
After the quarterfinals, the tournament average save percentage for the 20 goaltenders who took to the ice was .915 — which is exceptionally high, even for the small sample size of five games. Why is that average so high? The answer to that question is connected to the stellar goaltending of France, Germany, Japan, and the Czech Republic.
The Best of Group B
Jennifer Harß | Age: 31 | Team Germany
Harß and Germany were knocked out by Canada in the quarterfinals by a score of 5-1, but she still finished the 2019 Worlds with a .935 save percentage. She stopped 61 of the 66 shots she faced from Canada in the quarterfinals. That’s a .924 save percentage against one of the games true superpowers and three of those five goals were scored on the power play.
Those numbers are just bonkers.
MVP of this world championship quarter-final between Canada and Germany so far is German goalie Jennifer Harss. It's 3-0 Canada heading into the third. Germans just need a Tortorella speech between periods and they'll be good to go for the comeback upset.— Kristina Rutherford (@KrRutherford) April 11, 2019
Before you think that Harß’s save percentage and her 3.45 GSAA (goals saved above average) was the result of a light workload before the quarterfinals, it’s important to note the volume of shots she faced. Harß’s 41.34 SA60 (shots against per 60 minutes) was the highest average among goaltenders who started in at least four games in Espoo; in the group stage she faced a demanding 33.41 SA60.
That’s a lot of pucks to stop and Harß stopped a ton of them. She was, without a doubt, Germany’s best and most valuable player in Espoo.
Nana Fujimoto | Age: 30 | Team Japan
Yet again, Fujimoto has proven why she is considered Japan’s best player.
Fujimoto had the second-heaviest workload in the tournament in terms of minutes played. She and Sweden’s Sara Grahn were the only goaltenders to play every minute of the tournament for their respective teams. In her five starts, Fujimoto faced an average of 30.46 SA60. She finished her tournament with an impressive .928 save percentage.
There’s little doubt that Fujimoto’s best game of the tournament was her 49-save performance against Team USA’s stacked offense in the quarterfinals. Japan lost that game 4-0, but Fujimoto was simply brilliant. Before that game the U.S. had averaged 6.75 goals per game thanks to 10-0 and 8-0 routs against Russia and Switzerland, respectively. The fact that Japan was down by just two goals after the first two periods of the quarterfinals is a testament to just how sensational Fujimoto was.
Also, Nana Fujimoto is one of the most talented goaltenders in hockey right now, and she deserves so, so much more credit and attention as a truly gifted hockey player.— Annie (@Baseball_Annie_) April 11, 2019
Before her gem against Team USA, Fujimoto had a 25-save shutout against France on April 4 and stopped 28 shots in Japan’s 3-2 upset over Sweden on April 9. She also played a pivotal role in Japan finishing the group stage with an 87.5 percent penalty kill, which was the best in Group B.
In other words, Fujimoto was great in all five of her starts in Espoo and in so doing she solidified her place among the pantheon of the best goaltenders on the planet.
Caroline Baldin | Age: 26 | Team France
Baldin started in four of France’s five games and finished with the second-best GSAA (2.175) in the tournament through April 11. Even France’s 10th place finish and 1-4-0 record wasn’t enough to bury how great she was for the biggest underdog in Espoo.
The French netminder, who plays her club hockey with the ZSC Lions in Switzerland, faced Sweden twice in a span of five days. In both games, France lost by just one goal thanks to Baldin posting a .932 save percentage against Sweden. Remember, Sweden was ranked as the 6th best team in the world by the IIHF prior to the 2019 Worlds. Before Damkronorna unraveled in group play, they were the team to beat in Group B and Baldin nearly beat them twice.
Reléguées car battues 2-1 par la Suède. Mais quelle énergie et quelle détermination des Bleues, à l'image de ce splendide arrêt de @caro_baldin de la crosse. #FlorianHardyStyle #WomensWorlds #BravoLesBleues pic.twitter.com/3H9ncWzffn— Nicolas Jacquet (@Nicozzzzilla) April 7, 2019
France’s offense was dependent on the power play to make an impact, which put a lot of pressure on Baldin. That pressure is perhaps best defined by the number 24 — which is the number of times that France was on the penalty kill. Through April 11, no other team in Espoo had been on the disadvantage more than 19 times.
Baldin finished her tournament with a .929 save percentage and faced an average of 39.12 SA60. Like Harß, Baldin allowed eight even strength goals in her four starts. Unfortunately, she wasn’t in net for France’s sole win of the tournament, but Baldin gave her team a chance to win in all four of her starts. Considering the fact that France was outshot 110 to 198 in Espoo, that is quite an accomplishment.
2019 Worlds goaltending stats through the quarterfinals
|CAN||SZABADOS Shannon||Buffalo Beauts||3||2||120||120.000||29||28.00||1||0||0.50||0.966||1.465||0.73||14.50||1|
|CAN||LACASSE Genevieve||Les Canadiennes de Montreal||3||1||60||60.000||8||7.00||1||1||1.00||0.875||-0.32||-0.32||8.00|
|CAN||MASCHMEYER Emerance||Les Canadiennes de Montreal||4||2||120||120.000||39||36.00||3||1||1.50||0.923||0.315||0.16||19.50||1|
|CZE||BLAHOVA Kristyna||HC Pribram||4||0||60||60.000||10||10.00||0||0||0.00||1.000||0.85||0.85||10.00||1|
|CZE||PESLAROVA Klara||MODO Hockey||4||4||240||240.000||97||89.00||8||5||2.00||0.918||0.245||0.06||24.25|
|CZE||ZECHOVSKA Katerina||HTI Stars||2||0|
|FIN||SUONPAA Eveliina||Linkoping HC||5||1||94:25||94.420||37||32.00||5||1||3.18||0.865||-1.855||-1.18||23.51|
|FIN||SILVONEN Jenna||Espoo Blues||0||0|
|FIN||RATY Noora||Kunlun Red Star||5||4||214:47||214.780||109||99.00||10||1||2.79||0.908||-0.735||-0.21||30.45||1|
|FRA||BALDIN Caroline||ZSC Lions Zurich||4||4||237:46||237.760||155||144.00||11||4||2.78||0.929||2.175||0.55||39.12|
|FRA||MAMERI Margaux||Bjorkloven Umea||1||0|
|FRA||LAMBERT Caroline||SC Weinfelden||5||1||61:44||61.730||43||41.00||2||0||1.94||0.953||1.655||1.61||41.79|
|GER||SCHRODER Ivonne||Tornado Niesky||5||1||60||60.000||37||35.00||2||1||2.00||0.946||1.145||1.15||37.00|
|GER||HARSS Jennifer||EHC Koenigsbrunn||4||4||246:44||246.730||170||159.00||11||4||2.67||0.935||3.45||0.84||41.34|
|GER||FLOTGEN Jule||EC Bergkamen||1||0|
|JPN||FUJIMOTO Nana||Vortex Sapporo||5||5||299:20||299.330||152||141.00||11||3||2.20||0.928||1.92||0.38||30.47||1|
|JPN||KONDO Mai||Mikage Gretz||5||0|
|JPN||KONISHI Akane||Seibu Princess Rabbits||0||0|
|RUS||MERKUSHEVA Valeria||Dynamo St. Petersburg||2||1||76:11||76.11||54||45.00||9||0||7.09||0.833||-4.41||-3.48||42.57|
|RUS||PRUGOVA Anna||Agidel Ufa||5||1||70:11||70.11||50||42.00||8||2||6.85||0.84||-3.75||-3.21||42.79|
|RUS||MOROZOVA Nadezhda||Biryusa Krasnoyarsk||3||3||153:38||153.630||47||44.00||3||2||1.17||0.936||0.995||0.39||18.36||1|
|SUI||ALDER Janine||St. Cloud State||3||2||120||120.000||100||90.00||10||4||5.00||0.900||-1.5||-0.75||50.00|
|SUI||BRANDLI Andrea||Ohio State University||5||3||179:29||179.480||141||127.00||14||2||4.68||0.901||-2.015||-0.67||47.14|
|SUI||MAURER Saskia||HC Dragon Thun Huskys||2||0|
|SWE||GRAHN Sara||Lulea HF||5||5||300:08||300.130||102||91.00||11||6||2.20||0.892||-2.33||-0.47||20.39|
|SWE||ABERG Julia||Leksands IF||2||0|
|SWE||SELANDER Lovisa||Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute||3||0|
|USA||POLUSNY Emma||St. Cloud State||1||0|
|USA||RIGSBY Alex||Calgary Inferno||4||3||180||180.000||68||64.00||4||3||1.33||0.941||1.78||0.59||22.67||1|
|USA||ROONEY Maddie||University of Minnesota Duluth||5||2||120||120.000||16||16.00||0||0||0.00||1.000||1.36||0.68||8.00||2|
Klára Peslarová | Age: 22 | Team Czech Republic
If you didn’t know Peslarová’s name before Espoo, you definitely know it now.
Thanks to her play between the pipes the Czechs went undefeated in the group stage and held their own against Team Finland in the quarterfinals. Peslarová stopped 40 of the 43 shots she faced from Finland and two of the goals she allowed came on Naisleijonat’s power play.
Compared to her fellow Group B goaltenders, Peslarová faced a much smaller storm of shots. In her four starts faced an average of 24.25 SA60 and had to make just 11 saves in the Czech Republic’s 3-1 win over Japan on April 9. However, she was still rock solid for the Czechs, especially at even strength.
Peslarová allowed only three even strength goals in her four starts in Espoo. That was the lowest total among all goaltenders who started in at least four games through April 11. She finished her tournament with a .918 save percentage and a 2.00 GAA (goals against average).
All data courtesy of IIHF.com and the author’s own tracking.