Should Vezina race be as close as the Hart and Calder?
The NHL’s MVP (Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Brad Marchand, Devan Dubnyk) and Calder Trophy (Auston Matthews, Patrick Laine) races are going to be hotly debated over the next few weeks because, well, that is what we do at this time of year.
But while those two awards are going to dominate the conversation, the race for the Vezina Trophy is probably just as close any other without getting much of the attention.
It should be just as close, anyway, and it should be getting just as much attention because there are no shortage of legitimate contenders at the moment.
For most of the season it seemed as if it was going to be Dubnyk’s award to lose. He has been one of the statistical leaders at the position, a driving force behind the Minnesota Wild’s surprising climb to the top of the standings in the Western Conference, and simply one of the top goalies in the league as he has been ever since he arrived in Minnesota.
And in the end, it still seems like it is going to be him to take it home given how well he has played and since it already seems to be determined that he is going to be the one to win it this year.
But the combination of his -- and the Wild’s -- recent struggles, as well as some of the performances from goaltenders around the league, should have brought a few more names into the conversation.
Let’s start with Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky, who already has one Vezina Trophy sitting on his mantle and has a pretty convincing argument for adding another one.
Like Dubnyk, he has been one of the key cogs in a stunning team performance, and right now is currently leading the league in pretty much every major category for a goaltender.
So far this season there have been 29 goalies that have appeared in at least 40 games. Here is where Sergei Bobrovsky ranks among those 29 goalies in the following major categories.
- Total save percentage: 1st
- Even strength save percentage: 1st
- Penalty kill save percentage: 9th
- Goals against average: 1st
- Wins: 1st
Bobrovsky had a terrible start to the 2015-16 season and it helped put the Blue Jackets in a major hole they could never climb out of. This year he has been one of the biggest reasons they are in competition for the Presidents’ Trophy.
Then you have Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, the 2015-16 Vezina Trophy winner, who has somehow managed to be even better than he was last year when he won the award. The only category where he is not currently above what he did a year ago is wins, currently boasting a total save percentage, even strength save percentage and goals against average that are all better than he what he did a season ago. He also already has five more shutouts (going from three to eight). It’s kind of ridiculous when you remember just how good he was a season ago.
The other name that might be playing his way into consideration, just based on how much he has meant to his team, is Oilers goalie Cam Talbot.
Coach Todd McLellan talked recently about how Talbot has proven to be better than he anticipated. Talbot is currently in the top-10 in every category across the board, but what makes his impact so meaningful is that he has been such a workhorse for the Oilers, already appearing in 64 of the team’s 71 games. No other goalie in the league has appeared in more than 58 games. There is certainly a risk in that sort of workload when it comes to fatigue and just being worn down, especially as we get closer to playoff time, but where would the Oilers be without Talbot’s play and durability in net?