Tim Thomas Stands in Price’s Way
Normally, when attempting to make the case for whether or not a goaltender is worthy of a Vezina trophy, let alone a nomination, the routine dictates you provide all the reasons why that particular netminder is worthy of being recognized as the league’s top goalie.
In this case, instead of exploring the tried, tested and true methods of presentation, I will explore an alternative route by taking a look at who is actually standing in the way of Carey Price’s first Vezina trophy and why, chances are, he may have some waiting to do yet.
As it stands, Price is having the greatest season of his young career. Although he has led the Canadiens to the top of the Eastern Conference before, he has never played with such poise and command.
Through 59 games played this season, Price leads all goaltenders in wins, ranks 2nd in shutouts with eight and sits 4th and 6th in goals against average(2.29) and save percentage(.924), respectively. Numbers worthy of a Vezina nomination, but worthy of taking home the award?
That’s tough to say. Or, at least, it wouldn’t be were it not for the exceptional play of Tim Thomas.
Thomas, the Bruins veteran netminder, and former Vezina winner himself, has played some of the most exceptional hockey of any player to skate in the league this season and is currently on his way to possibly posting record breaking goals against average and save percentage.
With a GAA of 1.97 and a save percentage of .939, it’s hard to argue against Thomas’validity as the logical winner of the Vezina this year.
Although Thomas has not played in as many games as Price, nor will he, the fact remains that if he continues with his record breaking pace, the pundits will be hard pressed to give it to anybody else.
Tim Thomas 2010-11 stats(+projections)
(As it stands, Thomas is on his way to posting better numbers than in 2008-09 when he won his first Vezina trophy.)
But are Thomas’ astonishing numbers enough to overshadow the value of Carey Price’s spectacular season?
Tragic as it may seem to some fans, the answer to that is likely yes.
For in measuring the league’s top netminder, which is precisely what the Vezina serves to determine, the reality is that the award most go to the most stringent and impervious goaltender of that year. And, although Price has enough fodder to fuel the fire for his case, he cannot overcome the gap between record breaking numbers and overall worth and value.
That said, there’s no reason to throw in the towel just yet as, although I do deem this to be a two horse race, there is still room for another candidate or even a change in the complexion of this duel.
With another shutout on Saturday afternoon, Carey Price is not going out without a fight and, although his goal is not to better his numbers but rather help his team win, he is doing both in the process.
Carey Price 2010-11 stats(+projections)
Now, while other goaltenders have had excellent seasons, it truly comes down to these two netminders from the Northeast division who seem to have stuck their necks out a head of the rest.
Thomas, and his incredible numbers, and Price, and his play/importance to his team, make for two very compelling stories.
The sole difference in what may truly tip the scales in Thomas’ favor, ironically enough, is that Carey’s incredible overall play may see him earn more nods as a possible winner of the Hart trophy as league MVP. It may just wind up being easier for voters to take Tim’s record season versus Carey’s overall importance to his team this year and split them in two, one with the Vezina and one with the Hart.
And, before you jump all over the Price for Hart comment, the truth is that given Sidney Crosby’s untimely injury and prolonged absence, no other forward or defenseman has truly stepped up to reveal themselves as being more important than many of the goaltenders this season.
Vezina Winners Since Lockout:
Mikka Kiprusoff: 2005-06
Martin Brodeur: 2006-07 & 2007-08
Tim Thomas: 2008-09
Ryan Miller: 2009-10
Again, given that Thomas’ GAA and Save Percentage are on pace to better not only the totals of any of the past 5 winners(including himself) but also modern day NHL records, it’s tough to argue that Price is more deserving of the Vezina.
The only thing that Price can do to turn that tide is to continue on his torrid pace towards 40 wins.
As it stands, there are only 2 netminders in the NHL on pace to win 40 games this year; Jimmy Howard and Carey Price. On top of being one of the only possible 40 game winners, Price is also shutting out teams at a ferocious rate. His eight shutouts on the season rank second only to Henrik Lundqvist while the rest of his numbers are better, on average, than anyone but Tim Thomas.
It’s a bitter battle for a prestigious award, but it’s only an accolade. The truth for both players is that they would gladly give the Vezina to the other guy if it meant hoisting the Stanley Cup.
The playoffs and lure of a championship are currently driving them to play the dominant hockey we have seen this season, yet while they keep their eyes on the prize, it certainly shouldn’t keep the rest of us from debating which of these two All Stars is worthier of being the 2011 recipient of the Vezina Trophy.