Why Carey Price Is the Favorite to Win the Vezina Trophy
At the halfway point of the season, we had a vote amongst our writers and through social media to come up with Midseason Award Winners. In that article, Pekka Rinne was almost the unanimous choice for the Vezina trophy, and at that point, it look implausible that anyone would be able to catch his numbers and steal that award away from him.
To refresh your memory, at that point in time, Rinne was leading the league with a 1.96 goals against average to go along with a sharp .931 save percentage. Back then, the Predators were at the top to the league, and Rinne had 29 wins -- six more than the closest competitor.
Now that we're entering the final stretch, it's a good time to reevaluate things -- where do we sit now?
Just as our last article on the subject was published, Rinne went down with a knee injury and the next missed eight games. During that time, the Predators stayed afloat and played .500 hockey, but sorely missed their starter. Carter Hutton and Marek Mazanec weren't able to replicate Rinne's early-season performance, and Rinne's absence gave other goalkeepers in the league a chance to catch up to his early season numbers.
Price is Worthy
Enter Carey Price. When we last checked in, Price was putting together a solid season himself in Montreal -- he was on his way to career-best numbers. Now examining Price's split stats, he has only gotten better as the year has gone on. And he's the main contributor to the Canadiens' ascent to the top of the Atlantic Division standings.
Price's improvement throughout the season has seen him lead the league with a 1.88 goals against average and .936 save percentage. He has eclipse the competition, and now has superseded Rinne on top of the goaltending leaderboards. It hasn't hurt Price's cause this year that the last three Vezina winners -- Tuukka Rask, Henrik Lundqvist and Sergei Bobrovsky -- have either player below expectations, been injured, or both.
If the season were to end today, the numbers above would put Carey Price at the top of recent Vezina Trophy winners. In fact, you would have to go all the way back to Dominik Hasek's 1998-99 Vezina-winning season to find a netminder with better numbers. That year, The Dominator posted a squeaky-clean 1.87 goals against average and a .937 save percentage to beat Price's numbers by a razor-thin margin.
If he keeps it up and wins the Vezina, Price would be only the third goalie in over 20 years to finish with a Goals-Against Average under 2.00 while taking home the trophy. At this point in time he seems to be the heavy favorite.
What About the Competition?
It seems unfair to write a goaltending article while only singing the praises of one keeper. Especially when there are multiple backstops putting up impressive numbers this year.
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
Every time someone mentions the Nashville Predators as one of the surprise teams of the 2014-15 season, Filip Forsberg and Rinne are cited as the main reasons. Until his knee injury, Rinne was lights-out, posting a 1.96 goals against average and a .931 save percentage. Since returning in early February, however, his numbers have suffered. And it's possible he's not at 100%.
Surely the injury has hindered his play a bit, but as you can see, even before he went down, his January was not going so well.
Devan Dubnyk, Arizona Coyotes/Minnesota Wild
Mark this down as the biggest goaltending surprise of 2015. Devan Dubnyk was traded twice last year, first from Edmonton to Nashville for Matt Hendricks, and then to Montreal for "future considerations." In the offseason, he signed a one-year, $800,000 contract in Arizona to try to jump start his career. And jump start it he did. While in the desert, Dubnyk outplayed Mike Smith, and was then traded to the Minnesota Wild for a third-round draft pick. Since joining the Wild, Dubnyk has played like an elite goaltender and has kept Minnesota in the mix in the Western Conference Wild Card race.
While his numbers are just shy of Price and Rinne's, he should still get some consideration on the Vezina Trophy ballot.
Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins
It's hard to believe that Marc-Andre Fleury is in his 11th NHL season, but as time flies by, the former first-overall draft pick (2003) has become a reliable veteran goaltender for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Not only that, but he's putting up the best numbers of his career and has temporarily (at least until the playoffs) silenced the majority of his critics.
Only time will tell whether Fleury can keep his steadiness throughout the playoffs and contribute to the Penguins making a deep run. However, the Vezina is a regular season award, and with the performance he has put up to date, Fleury should gets multiple nominations at the end of the year.
Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils
In his first full season out from underneath the spotlight of Roberto Luongo and Martin Brodeur, Cory Schneider has had his doubters. Many will point to his .500 record, but Schneider has started a league-leading 55 games and has faced more shots per 60 minutes than any goalie with at least 2,000 minutes played. And he's got a solid .920 save percentage.
Cory Schneider won't get many top four votes for the Vezina Trophy, and frankly he doesn't deserve them at this point. But each General Manager is given five choices on their ballot, and come the end of the year, don't be surprised if he is mentioned on at least a few voting cards.