Picking the Vezina nominees

Steve Mason, the brilliant young goalie of the Columbus Blue Jackets, could become only the fifth NHL player to win the Vezina and Calder trophies in the same year.

But he'll have to beat out the Minnesota Wild's Niklas Backstrom, and Tim Thomas, whose league-leading goals-against average was a driving force for the Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins this season.

— NHL.com

Unlike many of the other awards I've been talking about the past few days, the Professional Hockey Writers' Association doesn't vote for the Vezina. The NHL's 30 general managers do, and sometimes that results in some odd choices creeping into the top three.

This year's bunch aren't a bad crop, at least not the way I see it. My basic criteria for narrowing the field goes something like this:

  1. Goaltenders have to have made at least 50 starts
  2. They should have a save percentage that is above the league average for regular netminders (.909)
  3. They should have won at least 30 games

Those stipulations alone leave us with just nine goaltenders, shown here ranked by save percentage (and with this year's nominees in bold):

Name Team GS  W  L  OTL  GAA  SV%  SO 
1  Tim Thomas  BOS  54 36 11 7 2.10 0.933 5
2  Niklas Backstrom  MIN  71 37 24 8 2.33 0.923 8
3  Roberto Luongo  VAN  54 33 13 7 2.34 0.920 9
4  Ryan Miller  BUF  58 34 18 6 2.53 0.918 5
5  Cam Ward  CAR  68 39 23 5 2.44 0.916 6
6  Henrik Lundqvist  NYR  70 38 25 7 2.43 0.916 3
7  Steve Mason  COB  61 33 20 7 2.29 0.916 10
8  Marc-Andre Fleury  PIT  61 35 18 7 2.67 0.912 4
9  Evgeni Nabokov  SAN  62 41 12 8 2.44 0.910 7

One of the main issues with goalie stats is that many of them are team based. Wins is obviously heavily dependent on things like goal scoring that netminders have no control over, and goals-against average is affected by team defence more than a stat like save percentage.

And then you have things like shot and save quality, something I got into in this post and which makes Backstrom's credentials less impressive.

My nominees would have been Thomas, Luongo and Mason, but I doubt it matters much. I'll be very surprised if Thomas doesn't win the Vezina this June.

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