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Top Goalie This Season

It was still January when it became clear that Craig Anderson was the top goalie of the early season.  Anderson is posting some incredible numbers.  In fifteen games he has a .952 saves percentage and a 1.49 GAA.  The problem is he has a high ankle sprain and hasn't played a game since February 21st.  He is rumored to be returning very soon but there are goalies who have been healthy all season who have almost twice as many games played as Anderson but nobody is capable of approaching his numbers.

The two goalies who have significantly more games played than Anderson who are now better Vezina Trophy candidates are Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers.  Bobrovsky has a slightly better saves percentage (.929 vs. .928) and Lundqvist has a slightly better goals against average (2.07 vs. 2.09).  Lundqvist has more games played (33 vs. 28) and has faced more shots (941 vs. 787) than Bobrovsky.

A major difference between them is Bobrovsky is playing in a tougher conference on a weaker team.  New York has a better group of defencemen and plays in the weaker conference (which is effectively a weaker league this season as teams have not player out of their conference).  Thus I support Sergei Bobrovsky as the Vezina leader at this point in the season.

Sergei Bobrovsky was acquired by Columbus from the Philadelphia Flyers this summer in exchange for a second round draft pick and two fourth round draft picks.  This is a low price to pay for a Vezina Trophy candidate.

Ironically Philadelphia is a team with goaltending issues that may miss the playoffs.  Columbus about as far out of the playoffs as the Flyers but they are exceeding their expectations where the Flyers are falling below their expectations due to the Blue Jackets strong goaltending.

Philadelphia traded for Steve Mason, who had been the Columbus backup, at the trade deadline.  Mason has struggled since his 2009 Calder Trophy win but there is hope that he could bounce back.  There is hope that the ex-Blue Jacket goalie might be able to take over from current Flyer goalie Ilya Bryzgalov after he fails, when the current Blue Jacket goalie would have done a better job and was originally Flyer property.

Perhaps the most one-sided deal the NHL has seen in years occurred last summer in Columbus acquiring Sergei Bobrovsky.  He is the current Vezina Trophy leader.  If that level of play continues into the future, there is no doubt this trade will go down as one of the most one-sided in history.  Philadelphia made a mistake that they are still paying for today and trying to find a way to correct it.  Columbus's rebirth is largely due to Bobrovsky's play.

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Comments

Peter10's avatar

What about guys like Rask, Schneider and Niemi?

Posted by Peter10 from Germany on 04/07/13 at 04:08 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

They are in the next tier of contenders below the current top three.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 04/07/13 at 04:10 PM ET

DrewBehr's avatar

Next tier of contenders?

Niemi - equal GAA and near equal SV% to Bobrovsky. More wins, less losses.
Rask - lower GAA, near equal SV% to Bobrovsky. More wins, less losses.

Seems to be on the same “tier” to me.

This is a low price to pay for a Vezina Trophy candidate.

They weren’t acquiring a Vezina candidate. They were acquiring a goalie who had pedestrian numbers in PHI and was awful in the playoffs.

Posted by DrewBehr from The Mitten on 04/07/13 at 05:32 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Far better teams in front of Niemi and Rask then in front of Bobrovsky.  Having roughly equivalent numbers means they are not playing as well as he is.

While its true Columbus did not think they were getting a Vezina candidate when they acquired Bobrovsky, that is what they have now and they got it cheap.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 04/07/13 at 06:41 PM ET

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They weren’t acquiring a Vezina candidate. They were acquiring a goalie who had pedestrian numbers in PHI and was awful in the playoffs.

Posted by DrewBehr from The Mitten on 04/07/13 at 05:32 PM ET

That’s why teams have pro scouts. To be able to buy low on a guy who can be more than his numbers, like Bobrovsky.

You might say “Bob’s numbers in philadelphia were this and that because I looked it up,” but Bob was, to the eye, an obviously talented goaltender in Philadelphia. Columbus, on the advice of their scouts, bet he’d be able to apply that talent better in the future than he had. And they were right.

If you just look at stats in a vacuum, without looking at what the guy can do and the situation he finds himself doing it in, you make mistakes like thinking Niemi’s good enough to hold Henrik Lundqvist’s jock strap (he isn’t). Or, like Philly, you trade a talented goalie like bob for nothing and sign a rather mediocre one like Bryz for $100million.

Posted by larry on 04/07/13 at 09:01 PM ET

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Bobrovsky has better numbers in Columbus than Philly because any goalie would have better numbers than whoever plays goal in Philly. Don’t forget Bryz was terrific in Phoenix which is why they paid him so much money. But Philly forgot that they needed people to play defense, of which they have none, so that’s why Bryz looks like shit (although a tad better as of late), and Bob looks like the second coming of Sawchuk in Ohio.

That said, not a goalie in the league compares to Lundqvist. If you’ve watched him lately, he keeps them in every game, and is making miraculous saves that I’ve never seen him make before. The lack of offense of the Rangers is what makes Hank the MVP of the league. No one is more valuable to a team.

Posted by ryanloral on 04/07/13 at 09:44 PM ET

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I won’t quibble too much, but Lundqvist is 5 points better at even strength (.938 versus .933) and faces a greater proportion of his workload against the powerplay. Lundqvist has faced about 13% more even strength shots (756 versus 670) but 50% more with his team a man down (150 versus 100), which drags his overall number down even more.

True, Bob has a much better figure against the powerplay (.900 versus .873) but it’s hard to draw too many conclusions about goalie play from shorthanded save percentage due to sample issues, team issues, and the fact that the numbers vary wildly and show little year-to-year consistency (those number regress heavily to league average regardless of who you’re talking about). Whereas even strength save percentage is more generally indicative of talent, shorthanded save percentage appears to be mostly luck and static.

Making educated guesses about luck factors, I would say the statistical case alone would favor Lundqvist. The question is whether or not you think team factors are enough to close the gap in Bobrovsky’s favor.

But I will also point out that the conference adjustment is not really clear here (at least to me) in terms of which way the arrow should go. The East is a higher scoring conference than the West, and while at least some of that is likely due to the fact that it is weaker overall with more lousy teams, it might also be the case that there is genuinely more offensive talent in the East than West (as opposed to equal offensive talent but simply better defenses out West).

If that is the case then we would expect goalies to face tougher workloads in the East than the West, and the team factors between Bob and Henrik might even out much more than you’ve suggested here.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 04/08/13 at 08:48 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

I think the difference between the East and West Conferences is more clearly known.  The two conferences do not play against each other this year, but for over a decade the West Conference has had a better record in head-to-head games and also been the lower scoring conference.  High scoring tracks with a weaker quality of teams. 

I argue Bobrovsky plays in the tougher division/ conference.  I also argue he plays behind a weaker defence.  I would also immediately concede that Lundqvist is the better goalie and the better choice into the future, but based on the games we have seen this year Bobrovsky has been better and worth more to his team.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 04/08/13 at 09:22 AM ET

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I don’t disagree that the West is better than the East. Clearly it is. Clearly it’s easier to score lots of goals in the East.

But what effect does playing in the East have on goalie stats? That doesn’t seem as clear cut to me. If Western Conference teams in general play more defensively due to the higher quality of play (which is a supposition that may or may not be true, but I think is at least possible), wouldn’t we expect goalie stats to be inflated out West compared to Eastern counterparts?

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 04/08/13 at 10:13 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

In general I would expect western goalies to have better numbers than eastern ones because there are weaker defences in the east in general, but the situation isn’t that simple.  I expect western goalies to have better numbers because they play on better teams with better defences thus limiting shot quality.  I see Columbus as one of the worst west defences and the Rangers as a strong eastern defence.  So my reasoning for Bobrovsky in front of Lundqvist this season has more to do with the lack of a good defence in front of him while playing in the better conference.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 04/08/13 at 03:10 PM ET

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Fair enough.

I agree with you generally that Bobrovsky probably faces tougher shot quality against at even strength than Lundqvist does, given that Columbus plays shabbier defense (and Lundqvist fares better at evens, .938 to .933) and plays in a conference that probably has at least close to equal and possibly greater offensive talent (albeit lower actual scoring) compared to the East.

I’m not certain, though, that the gap is as wide as one might expect simply looking at the respective defenses. And Lundqvist also faces a greater proportion of his total shots against while his team is shorthanded, which would further narrow the gap.

You would give Bobrovsky the slight edge, which I think is reasonable though I don’t fully endorse it. I’m more on the fence given Lundqvist’s statistical advantage at evens and his special teams shots against.

I’d probably give Henrik a slight edge, but there’s a lot of room for subjectivity. I don’t think it’s necessarily as simple as Columbus is worse defensively in a better conference so Bob wins a tie in raw save percentage. I think the numbers are muddier than that.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 04/08/13 at 03:35 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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