The Vezina Trophy is given out each year to the best goaltender in the NHL over the course of the full season. This award has been won by some amazing goalies, such as Dominik Hasek, Martin Brodeur, and Patrick Roy. Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky already has won two Vezinas. One of those was last year and he started this season looking to go back to back. The last goalie to do that was Brodeur in 2007-08. Bobrovsky was not named one of the finalists this season. However, this doesn’t mean he was not the best. Despite who the finalists are, Sergei Bobrovsky deserved to win the Vezina Trophy this season.
Sergei Bobrovsky, Snubbed For Vezina
The first thing to look at is a goalie’s save percentage. Sergei Bobrovsky in all situations had the fifth best save percentage this season (for goalies with 50+GP). He saved 92.08% of shots he faced. However, when looking for goalies save percentage, all situations do not always do justice. This is because it often is not the goalie’s fault a team has a bad penalty kill. If the team in front of him isn’t good and lets up way too many high danger chances, there isn’t much a goalie can do. So, while all situations Save Percentage shouldn’t be discredited completely, it’s important to keep in mind what a goalie can and can’t control.
This is where we shift to 5v5 Save Percentage. At 5v5 Bobrovsky once again killed it. He ranks second among all starters (50+GP) in 5v5 Save percentage. Bobrovsky stopped 93.64% of all shots he faced at 5 on 5. He ranked only behind Pekka Rinne who had a fantastic season himself. Bobrovsky’s ability to keep pucks out, especially at 5v5 was tremendous this year. He was one of the best at it and that is just one reason why he was the best.
Goals Saved Above Average
Corsica’s Goals Saved Above Average, or GSAA for short is a model that weights shot location/difficulty and measures how many goals above the average a goalie saved. It’s a very good statistic to determine true play of a goalie. This is because with shot difficulty means that if a goalie played on a bad team but was the reason they won, this will show. However, if they were on a super good team and were not very good, this would also show that.
In all situations, Bobrovsky’s GSAA was a whopping 32.76. This is first among starters. John Gibson was second with 32.51, but then the third place Rinne had just 24.62. At 5v5 Bobrovsky’s play once again shines as he had a 33.93GSAA. The difference here is that the second goalie, John Gibson, had a 14.09GSAA. Sergei Bobrovsky doubled the next goalie in Goals Saved Above Average. He saved 20 more goals above average to the next best goalie at 5v5. The stat speaks for itself, Bobrovsky was a saviour for the Blue Jackets this season.
To compare, over the past 10 NHL seasons, the next highest Goals Saved Above Average at 5v5 is Tim Thomas in 2011 with 32.78. After that was Bobrovsky last year at 27.47. Both those years they didn’t come close to doubling the second place goalie. Sergei Bobrovsky was miles ahead of the competition, and it shows.
Finalist Comparison – Pekka Rinne
Let’s now compare Bobrovsky’s season to the three finalists. Let’s start with Pekka Rinne. Rinne had a fantastic season and was a huge reason why the Nashville Predators won the Presidents Trophy. He ranked first in both 5v5 and all situations Save Percentage. His goals saved above average placed him third in both as well.
Comparing this to Bobrovsky, who ranked second in 5v5 Save Percentage and fifth in all situations, and also first in GSAA by a lot. It’s a close call, however, if you weight GSAA higher because it actually compares the quality of shots Bobrovsky takes this one. Rinne was solid and definitely should be a top three, but with a much better team in front of him, his stats were somewhat inflated.
Finalist Comparison – Andrei Vasilevskiy
Speaking of inflated numbers due to a really good team, Andrei Vasilevskiy is the next finalist. He was not bad by any means, but calling him a top three goalie this season is very head scratching. Vasilevsky ranks fourth in 5v5 save percentage and third in overall save percentage. These both trail Bobrovsky who is second and fifth in the respective categories.
When looking at GSAA, it becomes even more confusing why Vasilevsky is in the final three. He ranks ninth in GSAA at 5v5 and 16th at all strengths. Ninth isn’t good enough, to begin with, but then also being 16th suggest Vasilevsky may be benefiting from a good team. At 16th he is below average for the goalies who played more than 50 games. Sergei Bobrovsky clearly was better than Vasilevsky this season and easily should have been ahead of him in voting. Whether you look at actual save percentage or shot and save difficulty, it is clear Vasilevsky should not have been ahead of Bobrovsky.
Finalist Comparison – Connor Hellebuyck
The last finalist is Connor Hellebuyck. Hellebuyck, along with the entire Winnipeg Jets team this season had a breakout year. The Jets found themselves back in the playoffs for the first time since 2015, so was Hellebuyck’s numbers good enough to call for a Vezina finalist? Well, starting with save percentage again, he ranks fifth at 5v5 and third at all strengths. Once again, these are both behind Sergei Bobrovsky, which makes it odd to see him as a finalist but Bobrovsky is not.
Well, how about GSAA? Hellebuyck ranks 11th at 5v5 and sixth at all strengths. He was solid on the Penalty Kill and above average at 5v5. These numbers once again have an argument he shouldn’t even be top three. He may be right around there but the fact he’s above the best goalie performance the NHL has seen in the past decade is very confusing.
So, Why Were They Voted?
The Vezina is voted on by the General Managers of every team. There is no one true way to answer why this amazing season by Bobrovsky got overlooked. The three finalists happen to be one, two, and three in wins. Wins is much more a story of the team strength, not the goalie. Of course, the goalie influences it to some extent. However, if you put a good enough team in front of an average goalie the win total will be high.
So, maybe the general managers just overvalue wins, or maybe they undervalue GSAA. It could even be a mix of the two. One thing is for sure however, Sergei Bobrovsky deserved the Vezina.