Daniel and Henrik Sedin are in legitimate Art Ross contention. Ryan Kesler has earned a few Hart votes over the course of the season, along with a Selke bid that is probably wrapped up at this point. In short, there will definitely be some hardware handed out to some Vancouver Canuck players at the NHL Awards in June.
Some focus on Vancouver airwaves and filling up my Twitter timeline has shifted to Roberto Luongo’s late bid for the Vezina Trophy, handed out annually to the NHL’s top goaltender. After all, Luongo has jumped to third in save percentage (.925), fourth in goals against average (2.23) and is tied atop the NHL in wins (33).
It’s true. Luongo has been spectacular this season and has held the Canucks in many games. But Vezina worthy? No. In short, there are many, many more legitimate candidates out there.
Let’s start by analyzing even-strength save percentage, which is probably a better indicator of goaltender performance than total save percentage.
Among goalies who have faced over 1000 shots, Luongo finds himself tied for 8th in the league:
Tim Thomas – .947
Niklas Backstrom – .937
Carey Price – .934
Jonas Hiller – .933
Pekka Rinne – .932
Ondrej Pavelec – .932
Kari Lehtonen – .931
Henrik Lundqvist – .930
Roberto Luongo – .930
Some teams who are good defensively are very good at keeping shots to the outside and reducing scoring chances, which, in the end, leads to more goals (the median shooting percentage for forwards is 10-11 per cent, while for defensemen, who shoot from further away and not in scoring chance situations, is more around 7-8 per cent). One thing I’ve been doing lately to judge a goaltender is to judge how the backup is playing. In previous years, Luongo was so important to the Canucks because they did not have a suitable backup. Enter Cory Schneider.
Subtract the starter’s even strength save percentage from his main backup’s of this same group of elite goaltenders, and note the discrepancy. The higher the discrepancy, the more important the starter is to the team.
Pekka Rinne – .002
Roberto Luongo – .005
Henrik Lundqvist – .006
Kari Lehtonen – .018
Niklas Backstrom – .019
Tim Thomas – .020
Ondrej Pavelec – .025
Carey Price – .027
Jonas Hiller – .037
This method has not exactly been through rigorous testing procedures by any means, but it’s a basic indicator of goaltender importance. Taking both numbers into consideration, the only argument against the top three nominees being Hiller, Price and Thomas is that Hiller finds himself on Injured Reserve with vertigo and doesn’t seem like he’ll be make a return sometime soon. After Jonas Hiller I’d probably include Ondrej Pavelec or Niklas Backstrom before Roberto Luongo.
Not that Luongo hasn’t been every bit as important to the Canucks’ season as Kesler or the Sedins, but there have been some truly remarkable goaltending performances this season that deserve their due.