Path to the Vezina
The Vezina Trophy is the most prestigious individual award for an NHL goaltender. Every season, voters select who they believe is the best netminder. Given how competitive the league has become, winners have not repeated in 14 years.
Last season, Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers won the award and is the preseason favorite for the 2022-23 season per the NHL odds. What must he do to be the first goalie to win this award consecutively since Martin Brodeur?
Watch out for these indicators for Vezina Trophy candidates.
Be Among the Leaders in the Main Goalie Stats
Thanks to advanced analytics, there are a plethora of statistics to indicate how well a goaltender is playing. But before that, there are three basic goalie stats to note: wins, save percentage (SV%), and goals-against-average (GAA). Shutouts are a nice cherry on top.
Shesterkin, like many winners before him, led the league in SV% (.935) and GAA (2.07) last season, but he was only sixth in wins. The wins stat can be looked over as voters may view that as a team stat. Hence why Florida Panthers netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, who tied with Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy with the most wins in 2021-22, was not even a finalist.
Impress in Advanced Analytics
Now, onto advanced analytics. We are in 2022 after all and advanced analytics have not just become trendy, but are used by both media and NHL executives to gauge a goaltender’s performance. Shesterkin also led the league in many of these categories: goals saved above expectations (GSAE) and adjusted goals-against-average (adjGAA).
Nashville’s Juuse Saros, one of the finalists, led in goalie point shares (14.0). But he also played the most minutes. GSAE is usually an indicator of how well the goalie is playing regardless of the team in front of him. A high GSAE means the goaltender is making saves despite his team. Shesterkin led this one by quite a lot with 45, which is 15 more than the New York Islanders’ Ilya Sorokin (30) who had the second most.
Pass the ‘Eye’ Test
What is more memorable — looking over a goaltender’s stats or seeing them make an eye-popping save in real life? Even the staunchest stats advocate will admit that you need to watch someone play to get the whole picture. Shesterkin has a long highlight reel, often robbing his opponents of goals.
Besides, a lot of the voters are older folk – that means they prefer watching the games and judging players based on their eyeballs rather than ogling colorful numbers and graphs on an iPhone. You can bet online that the next Vezina winner will have a healthy balance of gaudy statistics plus spectacular saves.
Gain the Support of Your Peers
By “peers” we’re not just talking about teammates and members of the franchise but, rather, the entire NHL as a whole. While it’s not possible to have everyone like you, almost everyone will respect you if you’re the best. Wayne Gretzky said he believed Dominik Hasek was the best player in the world. Hasek won an NHL-record six Vezinas.
Vasilevskiy and Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens have won over their peers. Shesterkin is relatively new to the scene and will need to follow up last season with another strong one. He opened at 20-1 last preseason and ran away with the award as he put on the best season for a goaltender since 2017. Now, everyone including the online sportsbook considers him the man to beat.