A majority of analytic research done on possession has focused on a forward or defenseman’s ability to control the play. Possession numbers (both actual and relative to an individual’s team) are often an effective way of evaluating players. That being said, very little research has been done focusing on a goaltender’s impact on the team’s possession as they don’t have a direct impact in the offensive zone (in fact, all goalies start 0% of faceoffs in the offensive or neural zones (that was a joke)).
While the goaltender’s main job is to stop the opponent from scoring, there are multiple ways a puck-moving goaltender can influence possession. This includes stopping an opponent’s dump-in attempt and leaving the puck for a defenseman to pick up, poke checking an opposing player near the net, deflecting a shot to an area away from opposing players, passing the puck to a defenseman to start a breakout, or even catching the opponent in the middle of a line change by firing the puck up to a forward waiting near the far blue line.
Much like forwards and defensemen, some goalies must be better at driving play than others. In an age where possession is crucial, having a puck-moving goaltender that positively affects possession statistics can provide a large advantage over an equally talented goaltender that doesn’t touch the puck.