by PuckStopsHere on 06/23/09 at 06:45 AM ET
One of the more controversial comments I made is when I claimed during the semifinals of the playoffs that there were no elite goalies left in the playoffs. At that time, Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Nikolai Khabibulin of the Chicago Blackhawks, Chris Osgood of the Detroit Red Wings and Cam Ward of the Carolina Hurricanes remained as the playoff goaltenders. Were there elite goalies in the bunch, it stands to reason that they would have been among the leaders in the voting for the Vezina Trophy and post season all star teams. Assuming they are injury-free, it certainly stands to reason that any elite goalies in the league should get strong support for these awards and possibly even win them.
First, let’s look at the Vezina Trophy voting. Nine goalies received votes. Marc-Andre Fleury, Nikolai Khabibulin and Chris Osgood were not among this group. Cam Ward finished seventh in the voting with 11 points. That result would suggest that if any of the four semi-final goalies are elite, Cam Ward is your man. However, he isn’t a front runner for the award and it is possible to argue against him being among the top handful of NHL goalies.
Now when we look at the post season all star teams, we see fourteen goalies received at least one vote. Again Marc-Andre Fleury and Chris Osgood received no votes whatsoever. This time Nikolai Khabibulin had one third place vote to qualify him for a 13th place tie. Cam Ward had the best showing with 26 points and finished in seventh place. This is not the showing one would expect from a group of elite goalies. Again it is Cam Ward who makes the strongest argument that he belongs in an elite group, but the argument is far from conclusive.
Despite the fact that they received absolutely no support for the Vezina Trophy or post season all star teams it was Chris Osgood and Marc-Andre Fleury who most commenters argued were elite goalies. Osgood had a good playoff. His .926 playoff saves percentage brought his full season saves percentage up to .900, which is well below average. That is not a number of an elite goalie, even if his hot streak was in the playoffs. Marc-Andre Fleury put up a .908 playoff saves percentage, which was below average for the playoffs. That number was not too far off his .912 regular season saves percentage, which was roughly average. That is also not the numbers of an elite goalie; it doesn’t matter if he happens to win the Stanley Cup with them. These seasons are well within expectation for both of these player’s career trajectories (in Osgood’s case last year was an outlier).
The Vezina and all star team voting should provide a reasonable list of the best goalies in the NHL. The goalies that made the semi-finals are not well represented on either of those lists. Cam Ward does that best of the four, but is still a step below elite. The other goalies are further back. Both finalists, Marc-Andre Fleury and Chris Osgood, were not mentioned on one ballot. That would be quite an amazing situation if they were elite goalies.
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