A couple of days ago, I posed the question (virtually word-for-word — writers like themes) regarding the Norris candidacy of all-world blue liner Drew Doughty.
It’s a strong case, to be sure: Doughty is universally considered an elite NHL defenseman, posting consistently strong numbers across the board. He’s currently having his best year since 2009-10 when, after a breakout campaign, he finished third in the Norris voting. In subsequent years, he finished in the top ten several more times before losing out by a whisker last year to Erik Karlsson.
Given his top-ten ranking in a number of key statistical categories and arguably being overdue for the prize, he’s got a great shot at it this year, especially if has a strong finish to the regular season. Can the same be said for Jonathan Quick and the Vezina?
Quick’s Case for the Vezina
Kevin Allen of USA Today argued the case for various potential Vezina candidates, including Braden Holtby (Washington), Ben Bishop (Tampa Bay), Corey Crawford (Chicago), Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers), Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh) and Jonathan Quick. Regarding Quick, Allen said the following:
With 37 wins, Quick should reach the 40-win mark for the first time in his career. His mental toughness and acrobatic style is a perfect fit for the rambunctious Kings. The veteran group draws confidence from Quick’s big-game intensity. This has been his best season since 2011-12.
Let’s drill deeper. Here’s where Quick stands in various goaltending statistical categories:
Games: Tied for first (60) with Martin Jones.
Wins: Second (37) behind Holtby.
G.A.A.: Fourth on the list (2.16).
Save %: Tied for 14th with Jones (.920).
Shootout save % (minimum 40 games): Tenth (.706).
Shutouts: Tied for sixth (4).
Quick is in the top ten in every category (not to mention in the top two in both games played and wins) except one: save percentage. Kevin Allen addresses that issue as Quick’s main vulnerability with respect to Vezina voting:
This could come down to a Crawford vs. Quick comparison in the West, but Quick will likely lose out because he has a .921 save percentage and has faced fewer than 100 shots against. GMs could also believe Crawford is overdue.
It should be noted that we’re essentially splitting hairs here. Crawford is at .926, Lundqvist is .922, Holtby is .921 and Quick is .920. These numbers have the potential to shift in the last ten games of the season.
Quick Has Come Close to Winning the Vezina Before
Like Doughty, Quick has been in the discussion for his position’s biggest individual honor in the past.
In 2010-11, he finished 35-22-3, with a 2.24/.918 slash line. Quick received a single third place vote to rank eighth in the Vezina race, one ultimately claimed by Bruins’ netminder Tim Thomas. The following year, Quick put up the best overall numbers of his career: 35-21-19 (10 shutouts), 1.95/.929, winning both the Conn Smythe Trophy and his first Stanley Cup in the process. When the Vezina voting was tallied, he ended up second behind Lundqvist.
The close call in 2012 was his high water mark in terms of Vezina consideration. Quick finished fifth in 2013-14 and seventh last season.
Will Quick Win the Vezina this Season?
Like with Doughty and the Norris, there’s no definitive answer to that question right now. The field is crowded with worthy candidates, including not only the names in the USA Today piece, but Martin Jones (San Jose), Cory Schneider (New Jersey) and — as a longshot sentimental favorite never having won before — Roberto Luongo (Florida).
The following is a closer look at the competition:
Braden Holtby: After a great first half, Holtby has since come back to earth. With 44 wins, he’s automatically in the running, but his goals against (2.25) is a bit higher, his save percentage about the same (.921) and he has two shutouts.
Ben Bishop: Bishop has a better goals against average (2.02), save percentage (.928) and more shutouts (5), but fewer wins (31).
Corey Crawford: Crawford has fewer wins (35) and a higher G.A.A. (2.32), but a superior save percentage (.926) and three more shutouts (7).
Henrik Lundqvist: By reputation alone, King Henrik is always in the discussion. That said, he has fewer wins (32), a significantly higher goals against (2.41) and similar save percentage and shutout numbers.
Marc-Andre Fleury: Fleury has less wins (32), a higher G.A.A. (2.29) and a similar save percentage (.922). He has one more shutout (5).
Martin Jones: Jones has two less wins (35), a slightly higher goals against (2.24) and identical save percentage (.920). He has five shutouts.
Cory Schneider: Schneider has just 26 wins, but a 2.17 goals against and .923 save percentage. Like Quick, he has four shutouts.
Roberto Luongo: Leading a resurgent Panthers squad, Luongo has fewer wins (30), a higher G.A.A. (2.37), a similar save percentage (.921) and four shutouts.
The Fans Are Excited
Fans have taken to Twitter in support of Quick’s candidacy for the Vezina:
I can't wait for Jon Quick to win the Vezina this year. Gonna be great.
— nick (@starkmone) February 24, 2016
In reality, it’s likely Holtby, Bishop and Crawford are Quick’s chief competitors for the Vezina. Unlike Kevin Allen, I believe Quick edges out Crawford by a whisker. The real question is whether or not he defeats both Braden Holtby and Ben Bishop.
I’d like to say yes, but at least one of either Holtby or Bishop probably have the advantage at this point. Holtby has a large lead in wins and is reasonably comparable in other areas; Bishop loses in the wins battle but is stronger with respect to goals against, save percentage and shutouts.
It’ll be a tight race and Quick is virtually assured of finishing no worse than third, but I believe he’ll end up losing out — like in 2012 — by a nose. Here’s hoping I just cast a reverse jinx.