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Vezina Watch 2015-2016

Vezina Watch 2015-2016

Welcome to the first in a weekly segment simply entitled ‘Vezina Watch 2015-16’. Throughout the season InGoal Magazine will be keeping you up to date on the front runners for the prestigious Vezina Trophy, currently held by Montreal’s Carey Price.

The Canadiens stopper was our favourite to win the award again this season, but it is goaltenders in the West who have largely set the tone thus far, dominating our top three.

All statistics used are drawn from War-on-Ice.com. Because every goaltender sees a different amount of time on the power play and penalty kill, we are using 5-on-5 stats only.

For those unfamiliar with these stats, Adjusted Save Percentage accounts for some differences in the kinds of shots each goaltender faces, mostly location but also some rebounds and rush chances. High Danger Save percentage includes only shots from the slot. This is the part of adjusted save percentage that appears to predict future performance best and thus may tell us the most about individual goaltenders. More information is available here.

1. Martin Jones

SanJoseSharks2015-16 Record
Wins: 3
Shut Outs: 2
Save %: 98.15
Adjusted Save %: 97.20
High Danger Save %: 90.00
Goals Against Average: 0.33

25-year old Jones has made the perfect start (almost literally) to his career in San Jose.

The North Vancouver native made 19-saves on opening night to help the Sharks hammer his former club Los Angeles 5-1 before recording back-to-back shut outs against the Ducks and Capitals.

Whether Jones is the answer to the Sharks goaltending prayers remains to be seen, but the expected battle between the former Calgary Hitmen netminder and Alexander Stalock is pretty one sided right now as new San Jose Head Coach Pete DeBoer rides the hot hand.

2. Mike Smith

Arizona_Coyotes2015-16 Record
Wins: 3
Shut Outs: 1
Save %: 98.77
Adjusted Save %: 98.65
High Danger Save %: 100
Goals Against Average: 0.67

After a disastrous 2014-15 campaign, Smith and the Coyotes started the new season 3-0-0 thanks to victories over Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Anaheim.

Perfect on the penalty kill, Smith’s return to form has buoyed a club with a burgeoning crop of young talents, and while a post season berth still seems unlikely in a fiercely competitive Western Conference a strong start to the year could keep Arizona in the mix for much longer than many expected.

3. Pekka Rinne

Nashville_Predators2015-16 Record
Wins: 3
Shut Outs: 1
Save %:
Adjusted Save %:
High Danger Save %:
Goals Against Average: 0.67

Carolina, Edmonton and New Jersey might not be the most testing start to the season for Nashville, but Rinne has been his usual assured self in the Predators net.

That this level of play is almost ‘expected’ of the veteran Finn now speaks volumes, and his 31-save shut out against the offensively overloaded Oilers on Saturday shot down any ideas Connor McDavid and co could conquer Tennessee.

NOTE: Pekka Rinne’s stats had not been updated at the time of writing

Honourable Mentions

Philadelphia’s Michal Neuvirth joined an exclusive club, becoming just the second Flyers netminder to begin his career in Pennsylvania with shut outs in each of his first two starts for the franchise. Jeff Hacket was the first in 2003.

After a remarkable improvement between the pipes last season, Winnipeg continues to get strong goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson. The pair were always likely to be under scrutiny heading in to the new season, but wins over the Bruins, Devils and Rangers saw the Jets rise to the top of the Central Division.

Early Struggles

Sergei Bobrovsky has struggled out of the gate, as the Blue Jackets slumped to an 0-4-0 record to begin the new season.

The Russian puck stopper admitted “I have zero confidence right now. It’s a tough time,” when talking to Shawn Mitchell of the Columbus Dispatch after last night’s 7-3 loss to Ottawa.

With one of the most porous defences in the NHL last term, the Blue Jackets certainly need the 27-year old back on form if they are to secure a playoff spot this year.

And Finally…

Congratulations go out to New Jersey Devils netminder Cory Schneider on the birth of his son Wyatt – we’re also digging the Kansas City Scouts hat!

About The Author

Rob McGregor

A member of the InGoal Magazine family since 2014, Rob is also Media Manager for the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) in the UK and a former goaltender in Great Britain's third tier National League (NIHL).