Up second in our NHL Awards series is the Vezina Trophy. Each year the league’s general managers vote on who they believe was the league’s best goaltender. Last year the honor went to Andrei Vasilevskiy, who once again led the league in wins.
Our nine person Broad Street Hockey panel once again consisted of Kelly, Ryan Q., Jason, Kyle, Drew, Mike, Maddie, Kurt, and myself, Brad. Six names were brought up for contention, and the finalists were Connor Hellebuyck, Tuukka Rask, and Carter Hart.
*Hart and Vasilevskiy received the same number of votes, putting them in a tie for third, and it was decided that the tie goes to the Flyer — support your biases.
With six first place votes, and 22 voting points, our pick for the Vezina Trophy is Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets.
Mike: Hellebuyck was at or near the top of virtually every goalie statistic this past season, including save percentage (tied for seventh), saves (first), wins (second), and shutouts (first). Not only was he effective, but the 27-year-old played an at elite level while being a straight workhorse in playing 58 games (tied for first with Carey Price), playing the second-most minutes (second to Price), and facing the most shots in the league.
Winnipeg was a deeply flawed team during the shortened regular season, scoring less (17th overall in goals per game) that in recent years and badly missing Dustin Byfuglien’s presence on a suddenly below average blue line. But none of that phased Hellebuyck, who dragged the Jets towards playoff contention with a league-best 12.5 goalie point shares and second in goals saved above average (22 vs. Tuukka Rask’s 23) per hockeyreference.com.
Though Rask himself has a strong case, his Bruins were far and away the NHL’s best team top to bottom in the abbreviated regular season while the Jets would shutter to think about where they’d have been had it not been for their goaltender. Hellebuyck was the best the NHL had to offer between the pipes this season, and the numbers back it up.
When there’s one goaltender getting consideration for the Hart Trophy, they should be close to a lock for the Vezina. However, the final tally is very close. In what turned into a two-man race, Rask finished just two points behind Hellebuyck in the vote — 22 to 20 — and received three first place votes himself.
As Mike pointed out above, Rask finished atop the league in goals saved above average. His counting stats are similar to Hellebuyck, but what sets them apart is how well their respective teams played defense in front of them. That is why, per Evolving-Hockey’s expected goals model, Hellebuyck is far above the pack with a 19.86 goals saved above expectation (GSAx), and Rask sits in sixth with 7.31 GSAx. While the Bruins were a powerhouse this season, the Jets finished dead last in the league in five-on-five expected goals, and Hellebuyck was why they remained in the playoff picture.
Rask would be a worthy recipient, and is our runner-up, but Hellebuyck’s performance was truly season-changing.
Our last finalist is probably a bit of surprise, and maybe has you calling us homers, but Hart really does have a strong statistical profile. The counting or “regular” stats are just about average — .914 save percentage, top-10 in the team stats (wins, goals against average) — but it’s the stats that adjust for shot quality where he shines. A 7.25 GSAx places him fourth among goaltenders that appeared in at least 30 games, just behind Rask, and his delta fenwick save percentage (actual fenwick save percentage minus expected fenwick save percentage) is third among those same goaltenders.
As was said already, this was really a two-goaltender race. With voting points going 22-20-3-3-2-1, Hart’s three points kept him far behind Rask for second place. But in just his first full season Hart is already putting up some pretty great numbers as a starting goaltender. That’s huge.
Along with our finalists, other goaltenders who received votes were Andrei Vasilevskiy, Ben Bishop, and Darcy Kuemper.
Previously in BSH NHL Awards: