With the season on hold for the time being, there’s no telling what would have happened with the 2019-20 NHL Awards. Sure certain players had leads but the race for most awards were tighter than what showed on the surface. This is especially true when looking at the underlying stats, which bring up some exciting cases. In this series, the Last Word on Hockey team will decide who should have won each award based on the advanced numbers. Today, we’ll look deeper at the 2019-20 NHL awards, turning our attention to the Vezina Trophy.
These awards articles are not who we believe will win the award, rather who we believe should win based on multiple stats that were available.
Deciding the 2019-20 NHL Awards: Vezina Trophy
Winner: Connor Hellebuyck
The clear winner of the Vezina this season is Connor Hellebuyck. Leading the league in GSAx at all strengths with 19.86 by more than double of Darcy Kuemper, second in the NHL. Hellebuyck finished second in the league GSAA. At 21.04, he was only second behind Tuukka Rask who had 21.5. He also did this while tied for the league lead in games played amongst goaltenders at 58.
Thanks to Evolving Hockey‘s goalie chart we can see Hellebuyck’s success, especially given the little support supplied by his team. Hellebuyck had an unbelievable season, being top 15 in the league in even-strength high dangers save percentage and top 10 in the league in 5v5 save percentage amongst goaltenders with at least 1100 minutes played.
Without Hellebuyck (and with just a league-average goaltender), there is no doubt the Winnipeg Jets would be significantly out of a playoff spot instead of in the first wildcard.
Runner-Up: Darcy Kuemper
It was difficult to put Kuemper at the second place vote due to only having played 29 games this season, however, with everything shortened the games played tends to matter less than previous years, especially for goaltenders who don’t play every game. Goaltending for the Arizona Coyotes was very similar to the Winnipeg Jets, in the sense that the team wouldn’t have been in playoff consideration if not for their goaltending.
Kuemper had an exemplary season but missed significant time with injury. Despite this injury, Kuemper was still able to finish the season with the second-highest GSAx in all situations with 8.71. Kuemper also had the third-highest save percentage in all situations this season (while meeting the minimum 25 game requirement) at 0.928 save percentage.
Kuemper was robbed of a full season between a mid-season injury and the COVID-19 end of season pause. If he had seen more games played he very well could have ended up at the top of this list.
Third Place: Tuukka Rask
Rask played behind the best team in the NHL’s standings and, despite this, he still performed above expectations. Rask had the highest GSAA, however, this is to be expected with such a strong team in front of him. The more telling statistic is the 7.31 GSAx, good enough for fifth in the NHL among goaltenders with at least 25 games played. This shows that even though he had a strong team, Rask’s performance wasn’t as a result of it.
Rask was especially incredible at 5v5, with the highest 5v5 save-percentage in the league (with a minimum of 1,100 toi). He also had the second-highest save percentage in the NHL (out of goaltenders with a minimum of 25 games played).
With very similar numbers to Tuukka Rask, Corey Crawford performed extremely well and had a very strong case to crack the top three.
James Reimer is a bit of a shocking name to see on any Vezina list, however, he just made the 25 game cutoff. He had a fantastic bounce-back season in Carolina and posted some fantastic numbers in his limited games played this season.
Check in again tomorrow for more of our 2019-20 NHL Awards!
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