2017-18 Player Review: Maxime Lagace helped keep the Golden Knights’ season on track

The fourth-string netminder picked up six wins and 13 points in 16 appearances with Vegas last year.

In the 2017-18 Player Review series, we will evaluate the 2017-18 performances of each member of the Golden Knights. We have assigned each player a grade, which is a Knights On Ice composite grade made up of our individual ratings. Players were evaluated based on overall performance in both the regular season and playoffs, especially with regard to pre-season expectations and how that player performed in his particular role. Note: Only skaters who played in at least 20 games and goalies who played in at least 10 games were included.

If anything about the Golden Knights’ 2017-18 season had gone as expected, Maxime Lagace would not have suited up for the Golden Knights. However, we now know that nothing about Vegas’ inaugural campaign was conventional, and the goalie carousel applies to a T. But needing five different goalies just a few months into the franchise’s opening season did not get in the way of the Knights’ success, and Lagace played a part in keeping things afloat. Here’s a look at his 2017-18 performance.

Season in review

Lagace posted a 6-7-1 record with a 3.91 goals-against average and .867 save percentage in 16 games with Vegas last season. His 5-on-5 delta save percentage, which reflects the difference between a goalie’s expected save percentage and actual save percentage, was -3.42, which ranked 68th in the NHL among goalies with at least 500 minutes. He gave up a total of 57 goals, 30 of which were considered high-danger goals, 18 medium-danger and nine low-danger. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound netminder recorded a save percentage higher than .900 only five times, and he gave up at least four goals on eight occasions. However, his first six starts were on the road, and 11 of his 16 appearances were away from T-Mobile Arena.

But let’s put the numbers aside for a moment and instead take a closer look at the actual goals Lagace gave up in his worst performances.

There were seven games in which Lagace gave up at least four goals and did not earn a win. Two of those games were arguably Vegas’ two worst performances of the regular season (an 8-2 loss to Edmonton Nov. 14 and an 8-3 loss to New Jersey Mar. 14). Another one was the second half of the back-to-back home-and-home series against Los Angeles following the trade deadline in which Vegas played extremely poorly. Three of the other four include losses to the Islanders and Rangers in the road trip at the end of October as well as a loss to Winnipeg in early December. Lastly, Lagace gave up four goals against San Jose Nov. 24; while he did not get credit for a win, the Knights won the contest in overtime after Malcolm Subban took over in the third period.

In these seven games, Lagace surrendered a total of 34 goals. Of those 34 goals, 11 were power-play goals, seven were either breakaways, odd-man rushes or involved opposing players being in all alone on Lagace (i.e., Kyle Clifford’s goal off a brutal turnover by Ryan Carpenter as well as Anze Kopitar’s dandy after he got around Luca Sbisa and Deryk Engelland), and at least two were put directly into the net by one of Lagace’s teammates (a Connor McDavid power-play strike was technically scored by Engelland, and Tomas Tatar did the same on a Nico Hischier centering feed). There were at least three goals scored on deflections, and at least six goals were simply the result of good hockey plays by the opposing team (backdoor passes, one-timers in tight off a feed from behind the net, easy tap-ins, etc.). Keep in mind that there is some overlap, as some goals qualify for multiple categories.

Of the remaining goals that do not fall under any of those categories, though, two of them were fluke plays involving bad bounces (NHL.com’s highlight of Taylor Hall’s goal against Lagace is literally called “Hall scores off fortunate bounce”), and both came in that 8-3 loss against the Devils. However, both were soft, especially this one scored by Blake Coleman. Also, Patrick Maroon scored from the slot in Vegas’ 8-2 loss to Edmonton, but it’s hard to argue Lagace had much of a chance on the humming one-timer.

However, Lagace gave up plenty of goals he should have stopped. For example, he failed to hug the post against Cal Clutterbuck and against Tyler Toffoli, and he was off his angle against Matt Hendricks. He also gave up an inexcusable wraparound goal to Nikolaj Ehlers, a goal Lagace absolutely should have stopped.

Of course, you could examine highlights of almost any goalie in the league and find a similar combination of circumstances. The best goalies in the game are the ones who make the saves they have no business stopping. But it’s at least relevant to consider some of the context surrounding Lagace’s worst performances, especially when evaluating the numbers.

Standout moment

Lagace also made a lot of impressive stops. Two of the more notable ones are similar stretch saves against the Winnipeg Jets.

The first is a toe save on Mark Scheifele:

The second is another cross-crease save, this time with the blocker, to stop Patrik Laine’s one-timer:

KOI composite grade: C+

Knights On Ice awarded Lagace a composite grade of C+, with individual grades ranging all the way from C- to A-.

It’s difficult to present Lagace’s numbers in a positive light, but he was 24 when he first took the crease in late October against the Islanders, and he had not one second of NHL experience under his belt; after all, he was Vegas’ fourth-string goalie. He lost more games than he won and his goals-against average and save percentage were both awful, but he still helped the Knights accrue 13 points in the standings, which is not insignificant.

Also, the expectations for Lagace heading into last season were literally nonexistent since no one in their right mind could have anticipated him getting nearly 900 minutes of ice time at the NHL level. To that end, he definitely did not disappoint.

He gave the Knights a chance to win every night, and he picked up key points against Pacific Division and Western Conference teams like the Ducks, Canucks, Kings, Jets and Stars. He was far from perfect, but Lagace deserves a lot of credit for what he was able to do to hold down the fort in the midst of an improbable series of injuries.

Looking ahead to 2018-19

Vegas signed Lagace to a one-year, two-way contract extension with a cap hit of $650,000. He’ll likely start the season in Chicago, where he posted a 14-5-2 record with a 2.84 goals-against average and .905 save percentage in 23 games last year. Unless Vegas experiences another “Spinal Tap” situation in the crease, Lagace shouldn’t see time with the Knights in 2018-19.

How would you grade Lagace’s 2017-18 performance?