On Friday, the NHL announced the finalists for the Vezina Trophy:
Carey Price has been celebrated as the lead man in the race for the Vezina Trophy all season long. Price’s season has been so dominant that many analysts have supported his case for the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable players as well. If you’ve missed all of the buzz, you could read more from:
- Brian Compton at NHL.com here.
- James Mirtle or Sean Gordon at the Globe and Mail here and here.
- Marc Dumont at Eyes on the Prize here.
- Maybe Jim Matheson at the Edmonton Journal is more your style? Check here.
- Or Chris Boyle at Sportsnet here.
And on and on.
Frankly, these guys know what they’re talking about. By finishing first in wins, save percentage, and goals against average, Price powered a punchless Habs squad (2oth in NHL in goals per game) to the post-season.
He’s been historically good.
But is the race for the Vezina truly over? With the help of advanced goalie statistics at War-on-Ice.com, let’s take a closer look at Price and the work done by Nashville’s Pekka Rinne and Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk to see if there’s a chance for an underdog to steal the top goalie honors.
First, let’s start with a look at the regular goalie statistics available at NHL.com to see just how far ahead Price is in the Vezina chase.
|Wins||Goals Against Average||Save Percentage||Shutouts|
*all stats courtes of NHL.com here.
On the surface, neither Dubnyk nor Rinne poses a threat – fewer wins, fewer shutouts, lower save percentages, higher goals against averages. If the General Managers rely solely on traditional goaltending stats while voting, the Vezina Trophy belongs to Carey Price.
A Deeper Look
With the help of the modern stats available at WOI, it’s possible to go deeper than Jacques Plante-era statistics in evaluating goaltender performance. Here’s a look at how each of Price, Dubnyk, and Rinne performed against a variety of shot types during 5-on-5 play.
|Save Percentage||Adjusted Sv%||Low Sv%||Medium Sv%||High Sv%|
*all stats courtesy of War-on-Ice.com here.
At first glance, Dubnyk and Rinne seem to be in trouble here too. Price posted the strongest performance by all measures, including regular save percentage, adjusted save percentage, and save percentage on each of low, medium, and high danger shots.
However, there is an advanced stats wrinkle here that gives Devan Dubnyk the slightest chance of mounting an upset.
High Danger Save Percentage
In evaluating goalie performance, analysts have begun to suggest that there is a good deal of year-to-year variation for a goalie’s save percentages.
As Don’t Tell Me About Heart observed:
We see very little correlation from one season to next regardless if you’re treating every shot as equal (Unadjusted SV%) or break each shot down by it’s general degree of difficulty (Low, Med, High SV%).
The only small exception to the yearly fluctuation in goalie metrics may be for a goalie’s save percentage on high danger shots:
As per Sportsnet’s Steve Burtch:
Don’t Tell Me About Heart echoes the same thought:
The best results [for year-to-year correlation] were clearly for SvPctHigh, which is for shots directly in front of the next (in the slot). While the correlation is still small, it seems better than most results we see when it comes to goalie metrics. So maybe there is a little something to a goalie’s ability to defend a likely scoring chance.
With these thoughts in mind, it’s fairly clear that the single best evaluative metric of a goalie’s ability is their save percentage on high-danger shots. Here’s that chart from above one more time, reduced to just 5v5 high-danger shot save percentage:
|High Danger Sv%|
High-danger saves is the one skill that is somewhat repeatable. That suggests that HDSv% is the stat most likely to be based on a goaltender’s individual skill. And in that most-important stat category, Dubnyk and Price are within 0.02 percent of each other.
Is it an incredibly small wrinkle? Yes.
But when you consider that Canadiens’ defensemen P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov ranked number one and two in Hockey Reference’s point shares, it’s plausible that their work as a defense pair contributed to Price’s microscopically better high-danger save percentage.
That gives Dubnyk a chance right?
Well, not really. There’s a clear counter to this point too. Jonas Brodin and Ryan Suter, the defense pair protecting Dubnyk most, ranked fifth and sixth in defensive point shares themselves.
Both Price and Dubnyk benefitted from the protection of highly skilled top-pairing defensemen and, though so close, Price edged Dubnyk in the most repeatable of all goalie statistics.
You can’t say we didn’t try to give Dubnyk and Rinne a fair shake.
Price dominated the NHL this season, right down to the most specific advanced metrics that hockey stats can offer. Sure, Price enjoyed the protection of top-notch defenders. But Dubnyk did as well. So did Rinne – Roman Josi ranked ninth in defensive point shares, Shea Weber was just outside the top ten.
So, it’s a lock. Count on Carey to lock up the Vezina this year. As Sportsnet’s Chris Boyle puts it, the only question now is has Price done enough to win the Hart?
What do you think, goalie fans? Does the analytics wrinkly give Dubnyk an outside shot at claiming the Vezina? Or was this trophy race all wrapped up by January?