It was a foregone conclusion that netminder Carey Price would be one of the three Vezina Trophy finalists at the end of the regular season — there’s little doubt that he won’t be the winner announced in June at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Price, at 27, is in the prime of his career. He’s the first NHL netminder since Ed Belfour to lead the league in wins, goals against average, and save percentage over the regular season — and he did it by a landslide, too. His forty-four wins nearly surpass the average netminders number of starts on the season, let alone the number of wins they achieved — and with a .933 SV% and 1.96 GAA (contributing with nine shutouts and only six starts that saw him record a save percentage below .850%), he outpaced the rest of the league’s netminders from start to finish. Save a huge upset, the Vezina is likely his.
The other two nominees, of course, are somewhat unsurprising as well — and equally impressive in their own right.
Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators went on a ridiculously good run of 15-1-1, failing to lose a game in regulation eleven straight starts. His .923 SV% only dipped as low as it did due to a quick slide at the end of the season, and the two multi-overtime games he’s appeared in during the first round of the playoffs suggest those losses were the flukes, not the winning streak. After returning to the ice from a venerial hip infection during the 2013-2014 season, many questioned whether Rinne would return to his elite form — and he’s made it clear he can.
Devan Dubnyk, the third nominee, is considered the dark horse — but his career stats suggest he’s far from average. Coming from an abysmal Edmonton Oilers roster that struggled to provide defense for seasons, Dubnyk still walked away with a franchise save percentage of .910 — including the disastrous 2013-2014 campaign that saw him shuttled from Edmonton to Nashville, then to the Montreal Canadiens to fill in at the AHL level in Hamilton. The only team that seemed willing to sign him in the summer of 2014 was the Arizona Coyotes, who inked him to a one year deal as a cheap backup — then quickly realized that he was far from backup material as he carried the stagnant franchise to double the number of wins as their true starter, Mike Smith, in a third the number of starts.
Mid-way through the season, though, Dubnyk was dealt to the Minnesota Wild for a third round pick — and went on a thirty-nine game start streak, posting five shutouts and going 27-9-2 on his starts. His .936 SV% with the Wild was almost comically good, and the .929 SV% he finished the season with — including his starts behind the Coyotes — was one of the best in the league.
Dubnyk’s second half of the season looked better than even Carey Price, but the light fall schedule he appeared in and the black mark his last season with Edmonton left on his reputation hurt his reputation a bit too much. Even with his 2013-2014 stats, though, Dubnyk has a career save percentage of .914% and a quality starts percentage of .535 (meaning he records above league average save percentages in over half of his games). To put that in perspective, that’s just below Rinne’s .919 career SV% and Carey Price’s career .919 SV%.
Although there were murmurs about Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby getting a nod as the third nomination, it’s hard to argue — the three chosen are among the league’s best.