The NHL announced Wednesday that Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals and Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings are the three finalists for the 2015-16 Vezina Trophy, which is awarded “to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at his position,” as voted on by the League’s 30 general managers.
So which one of these guys will win the Vezina?
Why Ben Bishop Deserves The Vezina
From the NHL:
After establishing a career high and franchise record with 40 victories in 2014-15, Bishop shared fourth place in the NHL with 35 wins this season. He also surpassed Nikolai Khabibulin (83) as the winning goaltender in Lightning history, finishing the campaign with 115 for Tampa Bay. Bishop paced the NHL with a 2.06 goals-against average and ranked second with a .926 save percentage, both career highs and single-season franchise records. His six shutouts also were a career high and tied for second place in the League. Bishop is a Vezina finalist for the second time after a third-place finish in 2013-14.
Bishop had an outstanding season and was a steadying presence for the Lightning. How outstanding will probably be determined by how you feel about the Lightning penalty kill: His .908 save percentage while shorthanded was first among goalies with at least 45 games played, and a huge reason why that overall save percentage was so gaudy. His 271 shorthanded shots faced was sixth overall. Tampa was seventh on the kill in the regular season.
Why Braden Holtby Deserves The Vezina
From the NHL:
Holtby equaled a single-season NHL record with 48 wins, tying the mark set by New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur in 2006-07, to backstop the Capitals to the 2015-16 Presidents' Trophy as the League's top regular-season club. Holtby, who tied a franchise record with 41 victories in 2014-15, became the seventh goaltender in NHL history to record consecutive 40-win seasons – and the first to do since San Jose’s Evgeni Nabokov from 2007-09 (3x). The first-time Vezina finalist ranked fifth in the NHL in goals-against average (2.20), sixth in saves (1,661) and eighth in save percentage (.922).
It’s important to note that Holtby was the best goalie on the planet for the first three months of the season, including a .947 save percentage in December. His numbers dipped in January and February, as the Capitals were in cruise control, before bouncing back up in March. It’ll be interesting to see if recency bias affects his candidacy, as he’s been the goalie to beat for the award for the majority of the season.
Why Jonathan Quick Deserves The Vezina
The NHL says:
Quick led all NHL goaltenders in appearances (68), starts (68) and minutes (4,034), and ranked second in wins (40), fifth in saves (1,671) and tied for fifth in shutouts (5) in 2015-16. He became the first Kings goaltender to reach 40 wins in a season, breaking his own club record (39, 2009-10). The Milford, Conn., native recorded his 41st career shutout March 14 at Chicago, passing Frank Brimsek (Eveleth, Minn.) and John Vanbiesbrouck (Detroit, Mich.) – both with 40 – for the most by a U.S.-born goaltender in NHL history. Quick is a Vezina finalist for the second time after a second-place finish in 2011-12.
Here’s the top 10 in even-strength save percentage this season, from War on Ice:
Please notice who is missing.
Who Wins The Vezina?
Holtby. The hype machine was cranked for Holtby all season, and we imagine the voters aren’t being to penalize him for the Capitals’ lack of urgency as the season wore on. Plus knotting that wins record is a declarative statement, even if wins shouldn’t be weighed anywhere near as heavily as other stats.
Who Should Win The Vezina?
Holtby, but let’s address the real issue, which is that Corey Crawford* was robbed.
Did Jonathan Quick really snag this nomination over Crawford because he started 10 more games and had five more wins? Because Crawford has him beat in save percentage and EV save percentage but falls short in GAA, because his team’s possession numbers fell off a cliff while Quick’s was still a possession machine.
Was it because Crawford was injured down the stretch, when the voting occurred? Was it because Crawford doesn’t get the same credit for his two rings that Quick does, and thus isn’t on his level in the eyes of GMs? Do other GMs want to spite Stan Bowman for his creative cap management?
Crawford earned that third slot.
(* Keep in mind Cory Schneider of the New Jersey Devils was probably the third best goalie in the league, but with Holtby and Bishop sucking up the Eastern Conference GM votes he was bound to fall short.)
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