When the finalists for the Vezina Trophy were announced Friday, as predicted in March, the top-three finalists are Boston’s Tukka Rask, Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov, and Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop. In many judge’s eyes, the undisputed and predicted winner of the Vezina will be Tukka Rask, as he is simultaneously making a case for the Conn Smythe Trophy (the award given to the best player in the playoffs). However, the case could be made for all three of these players to win this coveted trophy.
(36-15-6, .930 S%, 2.04 GAA, 7 SO)
With Rask, there is much to be said about a goalie playing for the number one team in the league, who also happens to have the number two-ranked defense. Nonetheless, the man is a beast between the pipes. The Boston Bruins most certainly never had to lean on Rask in order to win games, having a .631 win-percentage in games he started. In fact, it was the opposite. The Bruins did better when Rask did not have a decision in net, posting a higher win percentage in such games (.720) and going 18-4-3. That being said, he still put up an amazing .930 save percentage, a Goals-Against-Average of 2.04 (0.19 better than the closest finalist) and a league-leading seven shutouts.
(41-14-6, .927 S%, 2.41 GAA, 2 SO)
No goalie was more on fire to close the season than Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche. Varlamov had a torrid pace to close the season, putting up a 5-1-2 record with a 1.53 GAA and a .950 save percentage in the final two weeks. That final push has not only put him in as a finalist for the Vezina, but could have also pinned him- in some hockey circles- as the favorite. Unfortunately for Varlamov, he may be doomed in this Vezina race by the lack of commitment to defense by his team. Varlamov leads the league in Shots-Against with 2013- that is nearly 400 more shots faced than Tukka Rask and roughly 250 more than Ben Bishop. That middle of the road defense in front of him (ranked 13th in the NHL), would have a dramatic effect on numbers in the categories of Shutouts and Goals-Against-Average.
(37-14-7, .924 S%, 2.23 GAA, 5 SO)
Ben Bishop may not win the Vezina Trophy this year, but if the award went to which goalie meant the most to his team this season, Bishop would win it outright. The percentage of victory when Bishop was on the ice in comparison to when he was not on the ice was astonishing. With Bishop in goal, the Tampa Bay Lightning won .638 percent of the time. With Bishop on the bench, the Lightning won a measly .375 percent of the time (9-13-2 record). Also taking note of Tampa’s quick exit from this year’s playoff, being handedly swept in the first round by Montreal, there is something to be said about a goalie that makes that much of a difference in his team’s wins and losses.
Looking at the four main goalie categories (Wins, Save Percentage (Save %), Goals-Against-Average (GAA), and Shutouts) has always been a way people judge how successful a goalie is over the course of a season. In the previous article, which outlined the five semi-finalists for the Vezina (see first link below), the four main goalie categories of Wins, Save %, GAA, and Shutouts of the past 10 Vezina Trophy winners were found and averaged out. The final averages go as follows (along with the finalists that qualify in each category):
Wins: 39 (Varlamov-41)
Save %: .925 (Rask- .930, Varlamov- .927)
GAA: 2.07 (Rask- 2.04)
Shutouts: 7 (Rask- 7)
Looking at the category averages above and which goaltender qualified the most in them, Rask led all finalists, beating the averages in three of four categories. Varlamov beat two of the four averages, with the GAA and Shutout category weighing him down. Bishop was left on the outside looking in, failing to beat any of the four averages. Yet, Bishop was extremely close to qualifying for three of the four averages being a mere two wins short, a .001 save percentage off and just two shutouts shy of the seven mark.
Varlamov’s 2.41 Goals-Against-Average is the statistic most likely to hurt him when judges decide who will win the Vezina. However, if they were to look at a statistic more telling of how well a goalie performed, they would look at his Goals-Saved-Above-Average or his GSAA. A goalie’s GSAA rates the goals that he has stopped, given his save percentage and shots faced vs the league average save percentage on the same number of shots (the higher number the better). Looking at the GSAA, Varlamov leads the league with a 27.45 GSAA. Rask is second with a 26.40 and Bishop is fourth with an 18.48.
Nonetheless, with Rask qualifying the most in each category, it is predicted that he will take the Vezina Trophy this season. However, Varlamov should seriously be considered- if not favored- given his amount of wins, save percentage and GSAA. Bishop is predicted to finish a close third, but looking at how much his play meant to his team throughout the season, if he does not take home the Vezina Trophy, he should strongly be considered for the Hart Memorial (the most valuable player award).
Commentary by Ryne Vyles