Quick a Surprise Nominee for Vezina
Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick has received a somewhat surprising nomination for the Vezina Trophy from NHL General Managers who vote on the award, finishing in the top-3 along with Ben Bishop and consensus favourite Braden Holtby.
While the Washington Capitals No.1 seemed a lock to be named a finalist after tying Martin Brodeur for the single-season NHL wins record with 48, the field was wide open for the most part, with various analysts championing different candidates throughout the campaign, based on a variety of criteria.
Holtby led the league in wins and finished the season with a .922 save percentage and 2.20 goals-against average, with a strong start to the 2015/16 campaign thrusting the 26-year-old firmly in to the lime light.
Despite a drop in play from January through March, Holtby remained the front runner to win the 2016 Vezina Trophy after a dominant first half of the season, with his pursuit of Brodeur’s record keeping him in the headlines and the Capitals rampant regular season campaign drawing plaudits from across the NHL.
The Saskatoon natives candidacy is based on broad strokes however. He only led the league in one category: Wins, which many question the value of as a tool to evaluate goaltenders and particularly Vezina winners. He was only top five in one other category: Goals-against average.
Among goaltenders who played at least 50 games for their team this season, Holtby would have ranked inside the top five for penalty skill save percentage (.890) but trails Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop in this regard, with Bishop posting a .913 save percentage on the penalty kill this season.
The Lighting number one was also second to only Brian Elliott in overall save percentage this season (.926 to Elliott’s .930) while registering a league low 2.06 goals-against average and the best Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) in the NHL (19.36).
Quick on the other hand had an unremarkable season in statistical terms. While he posted the highest high-danger save percentage among goaltenders who played 50 or more games, the Kings starter fared poorly in comparison to other candidates in all except one category – wins – where he finished second to Holtby. Quick finished 16th among goalies to play 40 or more games with a .918 save percentage, just one point above the NHL average this season, though that ranking improved to ninth when his save percentage was adjusted for shot quality by WarOnIce.com.
For those who study the games elite puck stoppers on a daily basis, the nomination proved somewhat frustrating when compared to others.
In 42 games for St. Louis, Brian Elliott posted the highest save percentage, highest 5v5 adjGSAA/60, second highest GSAA and second lowest goals-against average in the league whilst playing behind a Blues defence much less able to limit high-danger chances than they had been in the past.
Likewise Chicago’s Corey Crawford posted strong numbers in almost every category yet again but failed to receive a nomination while Marc-Andre Fleury performed well throughout for Pittsburgh, despite some early struggles in front of him.
Corey Crawford reading the Vezina finalist list: pic.twitter.com/gM21oBuRyZ
— Catherine Silverman (@CataCarryOn) April 27, 2016
Philadelphia’s Steve Mason also performed well again this term, particularly at 5v5 where he rated highly in both save percentage, adjusted save percentage and AdjGSAA/60.
Veterans Roberto Luongo and Henrik Lundqvist both played major roles in their teams respective success this season, as Florida won the Atlantic Division while ‘The King’ helped the Rangers ride out some rough patches with his usual aplomb.
Predicting who will win the Vezina Trophy is far from an exact science, but there seem to be some ‘stringent’ criteria by which the votes are cast, often to the detriment of goaltenders who may have actually performed better upon deeper study, Cory Schneider being the poster boy for this.
Holtby meets these criteria, Bishop too. Quick is a much tougher sell however.
This is not to say the Kings netminder has had a bad season. He hasn’t. But his nomination points to the somewhat lazy nature of selecting the league’s best goaltender each season.