Flames’ Markstrom to Be Named Vezina Trophy Finalist: Report

According to NHL insider and former goaltender Kevin Weekes, Calgary Flames netminder Jacob Markstrom will be one of three finalists named for the Vezina Trophy on Tuesday. Weekes said in a tweet on Monday morning that the other two expected candidates will be Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers and Juuse Saros of the Nashville Predators.

The one notable omission from this list is Frederik Andersen, who posted career highs in his first season as a Carolina Hurricane. Nonetheless, Markstrom does appear to be a finalist, something that was expected among everyone thanks to a fantastic 2021-22 campaign. Here is a look at where he ranks in terms of personal numbers alongside Shesterkin and Saros.

Season Stats

As far as starts go this season, Saros led the entire league with 67, while Markstrom came in third with 63. Shesterkin, on the other hand, comes in much further down the list with 52, in large part due to a lower-body injury he suffered in early December. But despite the far fewer starts, he finished with 36 wins, while Markstrom had 37 and Saros had 38.

Most would argue, though, that wins are not a great stat to judge goaltenders. Instead, fans and analysts alike would tend to agree personal stats are the best telling sign to see where a goalie ranks amongst his peers. Those numbers, for the most part, favor Shesterkin in a significant way. The 26-year-old led all netminders who appeared in 15 games or more with a ridiculous 2.07 goals-against average (GAA) to go along with a .935 save percentage (SV%).

Jacob Markstrom Calgary Flames
Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Next up of the three was Markstrom, whose 2.22 GAA ranked third amongst all netminders, while his .922 SV% tied Andersen for third as well. As for Saros, his 2.64 GAA isn’t nearly as flattering and had him ranked 18th in the league, while his .918 SV% ranked ninth.

One stat that does favor Markstrom in a big way is shutouts. His nine not only led the entire league but ranked just one shy of Miikka Kiprusoff for the all-time franchise record. Shesterkin finished third in the league with six shutouts of his own, while Saros tied several others for sixth place with four.

Advanced Stats

To some, looking at simple stats like GAA and SV% is enough to evaluate a goaltender. However, those stats can often benefit goaltenders who play on very good teams and tend to hurt the ones who are playing on weaker rosters. That is where advanced stats can help.

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The first one to look at with these three candidates is goals saved above expected (GSAx). Here is a quick definition of GSAx as provided on Last Word on Sports.

This is the key stat to use when evaluating goalies. We learned about expected goals in the last article, and this expands upon that. This stat evaluates how many goals a goalie saved above what he was expected to based on the shot quality he faced. The formula is simply expected goals against minus goals against. Unlike goals saved above average, goals saved above expected (GSAx) accounts for the quality of shots a goaltender faces and levels the playing field for goalies on good defensive teams and bad defensive teams. This is why it appears to be one of the best metrics for goaltenders.

Shesterkin led this category in a big way, as his 34.1 GSAx was far and above Andrei Vasilevskiy, who came in second at 28.4. Saros came in at sixth with a GSAx of 20.7, while Markstrom was 12th at 10.8. As you can see, some of these advanced stats help a goalie like Saros out when it comes to explaining why he was a finalist for the Vezina, as his GAA and SV% appear to be rather average.

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Next is high-danger save percentage (HDSV%), which is another great advanced stat to recognize just how well certain netminders performed compared to their peers in any given time. Shesterkin yet again led all three candidates in this category, though he ranked sixth amongst all goaltenders with a HDSV% of .764. Oddly enough, both Markstrom and Saros were well down this list, as Markstrom finished 30th at .699%, while Saros came in 36th at .684%.

Shesterkin the Consensus Winner

For quite some time now, the general consensus among fans and analysts alike is that Shesterkin will take home his first-ever Vezina Trophy after his outstanding 2021-22 season. In fact, there are plenty who believe he has a shot at winning the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player, though that may prove difficult given the outstanding seasons we saw from players like Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid.

Igor Shesterkin New York Rangers
Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Unfortunately for Markstrom, barring a major shock, he will likely finish as the first runner up behind Shesterkin, as nearly all stats suggest he was better than Saros in 2021-22. Still, this is the first time he has ever been selected as a Vezina finalist, which is making the six-year, $36 million deal that Brad Treliving signed him to during the 2020 offseason look like a very wise decision. Markstrom’s bigger worry at the moment, however, is to help his team pick up a win on Monday night to tie things up in their series against the Dallas Stars.