Vezina Watch – Lundqvist Leads the Way
As the 2015/2016 NHL season surges towards its quarter way point, a clearer picture of which teams will be in the playoff mix – and which won’t – is starting to form.
For Anaheim, Buffalo, Calgary, Colorado, Columbus and Toronto fans, Elliotte Friedman’s excellent 30 Thoughts column is unlikely to have made happy reading, with history now against them as each tries to revive its season following difficult starts.
29. I’m an idiot, reason number 598,622: I misquoted my own stat last week. I said teams who are at least five points out of a playoff spot after games on Nov. 1 have made the postseason just five of 44 times since 2005-06. Yeah, it’s four points or more, not five. So, the contenders are Anaheim, Buffalo, Calgary, Colorado, Columbus and Toronto.
Many would favour Anaheim to become the sixth team to ‘beat the odds’, while Buffalo and Toronto are at different stages of their respective rebuilding projects, so a bad start is not the end of the world per se. But for the Flames, Avalanche and Blue Jackets the seeds of a season of disappointment may already have been sown.
One common theme among five of the six teams Friedman mentioned? A crisis in the crease.
Anaheim’s woes were almost entirely offence related, but Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov has underperformed, Sergei Bobrovsky was slow out of the gate and Calgary are struggling to find a go-to goaltender among their three candidates: Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo and Joni Ortio.
All three clubs have had problems in other areas too, but you only need to look at the play of Roberto Luongo or Marc-Andre Fleury, who has helped Pittsburgh overcome their offensive inconsistency and defensive frailties to climb in to third in the Metropolitan Division, to see what a difference an in-form goaltender can make to a teams chances.
1. Henrik Lundqvist
Shut Outs: 1
Save %: 95.83
Adj Save %: 95.60
High Danger Save %: 91.67
Goals Against Average: 1.76
Lundqvist recorded his first shut out of the season on Tuesday, turning away all 33 shots against Carolina, before extending his personal winning streak to five-games last night, as he back stopped the Rangers to a 6-3 over St. Louis.
With many analysts and commentators believing we’ve not seen thr best of the Rangers thus far, it’s a scary thought to think Lundqvist is playing this well behind a strong team yet to find its’ stride.
2. Marc-Andre Fleury
Shut Outs: 2
Save %: 94.29
Adj Save %: 94.22
High Danger Save %: 85.53
Goals Against Average: 2.01
With Pittsburgh’s high powered offence still stuttering, Fleury’s play has been a major reason why the Penguins have remained among the top teams in the East through the opening weeks of the season.
Serious question marks still hang over the clubs blue line, even as the likes of Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel find form, meaning the Quebec native is likely to have to maintain this level if the Penguins are to avoid another wild card dog fight in the spring.
3. Jake Allen
Shut Outs: 3
Save %: 94.57
Adj Save %: 93.39
High Danger Save %: 81.63
Goals Against Average: 1.79
Allen may want to forget his brief cameo in New York, giving up three goals on 5 shots during the opening 14 minutes of last night’s game against the Rangers, but the New Brunswick native has been outstanding for St. Louis otherwise.
Allen held a 165:59 minute shut out streak heading in to Madison Square Garden, having blanked Nashville and New Jersey in his previous two starts, and looks to have moved himself ahead of Brian Elliott to become the Blues’ starter.
Colorado’s defensive woes are well documented, but that hasn’t stopped Reto Berra from posting some of the best numbers in the NHL.
The Swiss stopper, who has played seven games for the Avalanche this season, leads all goaltenders in save percentage and goals-against average, with a whopping 96.77% high-danger save percentage during even strength 5-on-5 play.
It’s a marked improvement on last season, when the 28-year old struggled to hold down his place in the side, and gives the Avs some tough decisions between the pipes moving forward, as 23-year old Calvin Pickard continues to knock on the door.
Spare a thought for Pekka Rinne too, who has maintained his usual high standards this season, only for counterparts Price and Lundqvist to put in some incredible performances.
Rinne is undoubtedly in the Vezina conversation, even if he didn’t crack our top three this week, but the giant Finn is suffering from another case of ‘always the bridesmaid, never the bride’.
The Predators #1 was excellent throughout last season, and probably would have won the Vezina were it not for Carey Price’s unbelievable effort. So far this season we’ve seen first Price and then Lundqvist set the bar, putting Rinne’s strong performances in the shade once again.
Ilya Bryzgalov took part in the Hockey Hall of Fame Legends Game last weekend, joining inductees and former team mates Chris Pronger and Sergei Fedorov at the event in Toronto.
The 35-year old always had a reputation for being a little different, but no one realised quite how ‘out there’ the Russian netminder could be until HBO’s cameras followed the Philadelphia Flyers build up to their Winter Classic game with the Rangers in 2011/2012 – with Bryzgalov’s views on space and the universe one of the series most memorable moments.
So with the discovery of water on Mars, and Pluto’s ‘is it a planet or not?’ debate, surely the former Ducks, Coyotes and Flyers puck stopper would have something to say, right?
I tried to talk to Ilya Bryzgalov about space. Teaser for the video I'm editing. pic.twitter.com/9Oyk2vYdEf
— Steve Dangle Glynn (@Steve_Dangle) November 9, 2015
All statistics used in our rankings are taken from War-on-Ice.com. Because every goaltender sees a different amount of time on the power play and penalty kill, unless otherwise stated, we are showing 5-on-5 stats to offer a better comparison of the save percentage statistics shown.
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.