How great was the group stage of the 2022 Olympics? We saw unforgettable upsets, gorgeous goals, historic firsts, and Team Canada look all but destined for gold. We also saw some jaw-dropping saves and fantastic performances from goalies from all ten national team programs in Beijing.
Before we fully dive into the Quarterfinals, let’s take a moment to reflect on the performances of those who wear a mask on the biggest stage in the women’s game. Let’s talk goalies (and goalie data) in the group stage.
Group Stage Goalie Data
That’s a lot of numbers, huh? But, before we rush to hard and fast conclusions it is important to remember that we are working with a very small sample size here. Only one goalie in the group stage saw 100% of the workload — Emma Söderberg — and even she has a four-game sample. Every goalie is capable of having a bad start and/or having their numbers look messy because of a start against a superpower or a team that had an overabundance of power-play opportunities, lucky bounces, or just had hot shooting.
Goaltending is far more art than it is science, so keep that in mind when we look at these small sample sizes. We should also remember that every goalie in this tournament was under tremendous pressure to be perfect with the world watching. In other words, remember that these numbers are attached to human beings who worked immensely hard to be in Beijing and that, in and of itself, is a tremendous achievement.
If some of these numbers and abbreviations don’t mean anything to you, don’t worry! Here’s a quick glossary to sink your teeth into some of the less common terms.
- SA60: Shots against per hour — a goalie’s average workload in a standard game.
- GSAA: Goals Saved Above Average — how many goals a goalie would save vs. the league average save percentage.
- GSAA/60: It’s GSAA per hour, so a goalie’s average GSAA per 60-minute start.
- MINd: Minutes played in decimals, which makes it easier to work with for rate statistics like SA60.
Ann-Renée Desbiens | Team Canada
Canada’s goaltending is so good that it’s unfair and Desbiens is the big reason why.
Desbiens had a .959 Sv% against an average workload of 32.33 SA60 in three starts for Canada playing against the top teams in the world. Keep in mind that the average save percentage in Group A was .895 Sv%. So, her GSAA/60 would be even higher than it already is if we compared her exclusively to her Group A peers.
The Wisconsin alumna’s 51-save performance against Team USA has to be the best individual performance we saw out of Group A. Desbiens allowed just two goals in that game, one of which was scored on Team USA’s power play. She made big save after big save and looked just as sharp against less imposing opponents despite seeing far less action.
With Noora Raty not on Finland’s roster, it’s a safe bet that Desbiens is the best goalie in this tournament. Truth be told, you could make a strong case for that still being the case if Noora was here. She’s that good.
Team Sweden is deservedly proud of making it to the Quarterfinals and they can thank Emma Söderberg for getting them there.
Söderberg absolutely dazzled in Group B, playing 237 of a possible 240 minutes between the pipes for Sweden. Her .951 Sv% against a 36.45 SA60 workload gives you an idea of just how good she was against Group B competition. She made 43 stops against Team Czechia and 37 stops against Team Japan in her two losses. In her other two starts, she allowed just one goal each to Denmark and China. Söderberg was sensational.
In many ways, it has felt like Sweden’s been waiting for its next great goaltender, so don’t overlook the performance that Söderberg is having in Beijing. Now 23, she has a bright future and potentially a few more Olympics ahead of her if she continues on this path. She gave the Swedes everything she could in the group stage. Let’s see what she can give them in the Quarterfinal.
Nana Fujimoto | Team Japan
It’s hard to put into words how brilliant Nana Fujimoto was in the group stage for Team Japan.
Fujimoto is, hands down, the greatest Japanese player and she delivered in a huge way in the group stage. She put up a dazzling .951 Sv% in her four starts against an average workload of 26.70 SA60. So, while she had to stop less rubber than Söderberg, she was definitely a standout and Japan’s most valuable player.
Fujimoto didn’t allow a single power-play goal in the group stage. She also competed in two shootouts, winning one against Team Czechia thanks to the three saves she made on their shooters (a fourth shot missed the net). All in all, it was a classic performance from Fujimoto in the preliminary round. She stood tall for Japan and never surrendered more than three goals in all four of her starts. What more can you ask of your goaltender in the Olympics? Stellar stuff.
Kimberly Newell (Zhou Jiaying) | Team China
In addition to having the sweetest gear in Beijing, Newell also did everything she could to get China to the Quarterfinal. Unfortunately for Newell and her teammates, Team China fell short of that goal. But she is not to blame for that. She was fantastic for the host nation.
Newell had a .955 Sv% against an average workload of 29.22 SA60 in her three starts. Those are stunning numbers, considering what the expectations surrounding Team China were heading into this tournament. She allowed four goals in 182:46 of action, one of which was scored on a penalty shot and one of which was scored while China was shorthanded.
Without a doubt, her best game of the tournament was her shootout win against Team Japan. The Princeton alumna and former New York Riveters draft pick made 32 saves in regulation, kept Team Japan out of her net in sudden death, and then stopped all five of Japan’s shooters to out-duel Nana Fujimoto. Honestly, it doesn’t get much better than that for a game between China and Japan.
Newell has plenty to be proud about. She put on a show.