At the midpoint of the campaign, THN compiled its list of award winners. While it wasn’t a runaway victory, Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk was our collective selection for the Vezina Trophy.
Those votes were collected on Jan. 5, through that much of the season, Dubnyk as the top netminder made loads of sense. Of all goaltenders who had played at least 10 games, Dubnyk had the best save percentage at .941 and he was also the leader with a 1.75 goals-against average and his five shutouts were more than any other netminder. Dubnyk was also second in the league with 19 wins. It’d be fair to say that Dubnyk was below average to end the campaign, however.
Across the final 36 games of the campaign, Dubnyk had a decent record — 21-12-2 — but his .908 save percentage put him into a tie for 38th of the 56 goaltenders who saw at least 10 games over the final half. Dubnyk’s 2.69 GAA was 29th among those same netminders and he didn’t blank a single team.
Dubnyk’s poor second half was enough for him to miss out on a good number of Vezina votes, too. Instead, Sergei Bobrovsky, Braden Holtby and Carey Price, who have won three of the past four Vezinas combined, overtook Dubnyk to earn nods as the finalists. With Dubnyk out of the picture, who takes honors as the league’s top goaltender?
Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
The 2012-13 lockout-shortened campaign was Bobrovsky’s first in Columbus and he was outstanding. He posted 21 wins in 37 starts, a stellar .932 SP and a mere 2.00 GAA to go along with four shutouts. The result was a landslide Vezina victory for Bobrovsky. He landed nearly three-quarters of the vote and beat out Henrik Lundqivst and Antti Niemi to win the award. But Bobrovsky has only been average since then. Across the past three seasons, Bobrovsky has posted an overall .917 SP, 2.58 GAA and eight shutouts. This season, though, saw Bobrovsky bounce back in a big way, leading the Blue Jackets to the post-season and a potential Hart Trophy nomination.
His Case: It’s almost impossible to argue against Bobrovsky’s numbers. He led the league this season with an outstanding .931 SP, 2.06 GAA and his seven shutouts nearly matched his total from the past three seasons combined. That’s not to mention that Bobrovsky won a whopping 41 games. Only two goaltenders — Holtby and Cam Talbot — won more games, and both edged out Bobrovsky by just one win. It’s not just Bobrovsky’s base numbers that are impressive, either. His underlying numbers makes his case further. The only goaltending with 1,000-plus minutes at 5-on-5 to post a better SP than Bobrovsky’s .939 mark was Craig Anderson. The Blue Jackets netminder was also a top-10 netminder when it came to turning aside shots from mid- and high-danger areas. He was excellent.
Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
No goaltender has won back-to-back Vezinas since Martin Brodeur back in 2006-07 and 2007-08 and Holtby’s chances at making it happen this year can’t be overlooked. Holtby, who signed a five-year, $30.5-million deal in July 2015, has more than proven his worth as one of the highest-paid goaltenders in the league. In the first season of his new deal, Holtby led the league with 48 wins and captured his first Vezina. It’s no mistake he finds himself back in this position this year, either. Holtby has become the backbone of the Capitals’ defense, and as far as last lines of defense go, Holtby is hard to beat.
His Case: For the second-straight season, the Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top point-getting team. It’s no coincidence that Holtby, one of the league’s best, is their netminder. Holtby tied for the most wins in the league, picking up 42 this year, and he was also the best netminder in the league when it came to absolutely shutting down opposing offenses. Holtby posted nine shutouts and he only had 19 games — out of 63 — where he posted a save percentage below .900. He had 24 games with a .950-plus SP. Holtby also has another feather in his cap: he won the William M. Jennings Trophy as the netminder who backstopped his club to the fewest goals against during the regular season.
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
The 2015-16 campaign was as disappointing as they come for Price. He was set to defend the Hart, Vezina, Jennings and Ted Lindsay Award, as the most valuable player as voted by the players. Price’s season went sideways only a dozen games in, though. An early-season lower-body injury put him on the shelf and only three games into his comeback Price was sidelined again, this time for the rest of the campaign. He missed the final 59 games, the Canadiens, sans Price, missed the post-season and the hope this season was that both he and the team could bounce back.
His Case: On base numbers alone, Price might have the shakiest case to win his second Vezina. Price was good, but it’d be hard to argue he was Vezina-worthy great. His .923 SP was even for the fourth-best of any goaltender who played at least 40 games and the 2.23 GAA was the fifth-best mark. At 5-on-5, though, Price was much better than almost all of his counterparts. There were 28 goaltenders who played at least 2,000 minutes at 5-on-5 and Price’s .936 SP was the third-best behind Holtby and Bobrovsky. The most impressive part of Price’s game, though, was his ability to bail out his teammates when called upon. Price’s .866 SP against high-danger chances was better than any starting netminder.
The Winner: Dubnyk was our mid-season winner, but Bobrovsky wasn’t far from the top. He helped guide the Blue Jackets an impressive 16-straight victories and his .934 SP, 1.92 GAA and three shutouts put him right alongside Dubnyk. Bobrovsky pulled away in the second half of the year, putting up a .929 SP, 2.19 GAA and another four shutouts from early January onward. All told, he had the best SP, third-best GAA, third-most shutouts and second-most wins of any goaltender. Bobrovsky was a wall for the Blue Jackets in a way that no other goaltender was. Nothing is ever a lock, but it’s a safe bet that he takes the hardware.
The NHL awards, which are set to be broadcast in conjunction with the Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft, will take place at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena on June 21.
(Advanced statistics via Corsica.Hockey)
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