Sunday, March 19, 2006

Vezina Trophy Leader

For most of the season I have been picking Dominik Hasek as the leader in the Vezina race. However, he suffered injury during the olympics and has not played since. This opens the possibility for other goalies to pass him. I think the current leader is Tomas Vokoun of the Nashville Predators. He has a 2.52 GAA and a .922 saves percentage playing almost every game behind the rising Nashville Predator team. He is playing extremely well and is one of the big reasons that Nashville has made such a big leap in the standings this season. Other top candidates are Henrik Lundqvist, Miikka Kiprusoff and of course Hasek (especially if he returns from injury). One other player who may get some consideration based largely on reputation and not on what he has accomplished this year is Martin Brodeur. I would disagree with this pick. Brodeur may be having a good season, but he is hardly the best goalie in the NHL this season.

Turco has a chance too. He has the most wins with 36 and a respectable 2.54 goals against average. His savve % is a mediocre .897 but I am not sure how much voters look at that.

But my best is for Kipprusoff since he is the only reason the Flames are in a playoff spot. Calgary has a horrible offense and yet Kipprusoff has 34 wins. His 8 shutouts are 3 more than anyone else. He is the best goalie in the NHL.
Goaltending statistics are among the most meaningless statistics in hockey.

For example, Kiprusoff's shutouts are largely a consequence of Calgary having the best (or at least one of the best) team defences in hockey.

Every stat is "clouded" by factors that have nothing to do with the goalie in question. Wins depend upon the offence in front of the goalie and upon the quantity and quality of shots the goalie faces. GAA depends upon the quantity and quality of shots a goalie faces. I think saves percentage is the best number since in is only biased by the quality of shots the goalie faces. Since I heavily value saves percentage, I think it would be a big mistake to pick out Turco for the Vezina (Brodeur is a far better choice then Turco).

It is an important point that deserves repeating. No goalie statistics kept by the NHL are particularly good.

I would argue that Calgary's team defence is a big part of the reason they are a playoff team (Regehr and Phaneuf are two very good defencemen).

I would argue that Nashville is more dependant upon Vokoun. He has a weaker team defence that gives him significantly more shots per game. And he has a better saves percentage then Kiprusoff does - despite more shots.
Decided to wade in here after reading the blog for a while...

The differences between Vokoun and Kiprusoff are interesting, but I'll throw some stats in the ring here:

As of today, March 25:

Nashville has 37 more goals than Calgary compared to 19 more goals against. Calgary's team defence is one of the best, but Nashville's is quite underrated, especially considering that Nashville's players are a combined +62 while Calgary's only a +21. Nashville has 7 player with 40+ points; Calgary has 3.

Vokoun's record of 35-15-7 includes a record of 10-2-1 with one shutout versus the weakest three teams (by far) in the Western Conference. In those games in which he got the decision, his GAA is roughly 2.00. Impressive, but we are talking about Columbus, St. Louis and Chicago here. Against the only other challenge in the division, Detroit, Vokoun is 3-3, 2.67 GAA. Not bad against one of the top teams in the league. As a whole against the Central Division, then, Vokoun's record is 13-4-1 with a 2.21 GAA (give or take).

Kiprosuff, on the other hand, plays in probably the strongest divisions in the league, where right now, all four of the five teams occupy playoff spots. His overall record of 35-19-8 can be broken down to a record of 16-5-2 with 3 shutouts and a 2.43 GAA (give or take again). Very similar records, but one doing so in a much tougher division. To me that means that Kiprusoff gets a slight nod ahead of Vokoun in the race for the Vezina. I don't mean to suggest the voters will see it that way, but that is how I do; Kiprusoff doing more than Vokoun with less.

Here is how I see the numbers and issues you raise.

The offence in Nashville or Calgary are irrelevant. Neither are significantly influenced by goaltending. I won't give a goalie the Vezina because his team is better or worse offensively - that completely misses any point.

Now Nashville allows more shots per game than Calgary does. And they do that despite playing St Louis, Columbus and Chicago more times than Calgary does. Nashville allows more shots despite the fact Calgary plays in a tougher division. From what I have seen, I see little evidence that Nashville allows a higher quality of shots than Calgary does or vice versa.

Despite having to face more shots, Vokoun has a higher saves percentage then does Kiprusoff. Vokoun has to do more work in a game and does it better.

Kiprusoff is more widely regarded as a Vezina (and even Hart) candidate than Vokoun. I think a lot of that is that Nashville is still a hockey backwoods. Calgary gets a lot more TV time (at least in Canada) and most hockey fans saw him play a very good playoff in 2004 and saw him get a Vezina nomination in 2003/04. People are more willing to accept that Kiprusoff is a better player than Vokoun, because they have seen more of him. So far this season, I think the opposite has been true.
I know offence has little to do with a goalie's play, but Kiprusoff has managed to sport a very similar record to Vokoun despite his team scoring significantly fewer goals than Vokoun's. I guess his lower GAA is an indication of that.

I don't believe Vokoun has been sufficiently better than Kipper to declare him the outright winner of the Vezina - the .003 difference between them is too small. The four extra goals against (based on both goalies having the same number of shots faced) over the course of 5/6 of the season is not at all significant.
I would wager that Manny Legace will be a contender for the Vezina by season's end. He easily has the best record in the NHL: 32 wins-only 8 losses. Kipprusoff has a few more wins but 12 more losses than Manny's 8!

Legace also has the best GAA of any contenders (Hasek and Huet didn't play enough games), his save percentage is one of the best and he's second with 6 shutouts already. If he hadn't been injured this season he would easily have 40 wins already and probably 10 shutouts.

Sure, he's on the best team in the league but if you're going to consider Hasek as a contender, Ottawa is only a point or 2 behind Detroit so their pretty equal teams.

Good write-up. I definitely love this site. Keep it up

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