With the NHL Awards coming up, we here at The Point will break down the finalists for the six major awards, as well as select our winners before the NHL Awards Ceremony in Vegas on Wednesday. You can see our Norris analysis here, but now, it’s time for the goalies to get some love with our Vezina pick.
In his age 32 season, Ben Bishop has pieced together the finest performance of his career. He’s one of only two goalies to play at least 30 games and have a goals against average under 2.00, the other being Stanley Cup Final hero Jordan Binnington. Bishop played behind a stingy Dallas defense that allowed the 3rd-fewest slot shots in the NHL, but he was a brick wall against the ones that did make it to him, posting the second-best slot save percentage.
The biggest knock on his candidacy is the fact he started just 45 games all season. 21 other netminders have more starts than him. Despite that, he still trails only Andrei Vasilevskiy in total goals saved above average. When he was on the ice, there’s no doubt he was arguably the league’s best goalie this season.
It would be easy to think that Vasilevskiy was just tagging along Tampa Bay’s historic offense to his league-leading 39 wins, but Tampa’s defense wasn’t as good as their 7th place in goals against indicates. They were actually a bottom-10 team when it came to limiting slot and inner slot shots, putting a heavy workload on their goalie, but the 25-year-old was up to the task all season.
Despite the volume of high danger shots, he was 3rd in slot save percentage and his 43.4 goals saved above average are over 10 more than second place, despite the fact he also missed time to injury. The offense often gave him comfortable margins to work with, but he was far from just being a passenger on a strong team and he absolutely deserves to be a finalist for the second straight year.
Probably one of the biggest surprises in the NHL this season, Robin Lehner took a one year, prove-it deal with the Islanders this past offseason. Paired with Barry Trotz’s defensive expertise, Lehner and the Isles went from the worst defensive team in the NHL to the stingiest. They challenged for the division lead for much of the season and returned to the playoffs after missing out the last two years.
Even with a defense that allowed the second-most slot shots in the league, Lehner was brilliant. He ranked 5th in goals saved above average and was only behind Bishop in save percentage. Just like Bishop, however, Lehner has started fewer than 50 games in a 1A/1B situation with Thomas Greiss, which could hurt his candidacy.
The Point consensus pick: Andrei Vasilevskiy
Ultimately, our pick for the Vezina Trophy is Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevkiy, and the vast majority of you agreed with us, giving him 50% of your votes. The other two finalists have had great seasons, but Andrei Vasilevskiy had a historic one. His 43.4 goals saved above average are miles ahead of last year’s Vezina winner, Pekka Rinne, who posted a mark of 35.5 in 2017-18 despite playing six more games. Vasilevskiy also leads the league in wins and was part of a, here’s that word again, historic regular season with the Lightning. He’s the easy pick for the Vezina this season.