Ranking the Top Candidates for the Vezina Trophy in 2015-16 NHL Season
It's been a couple of months since we last looked at the NHL's top Vezina Trophy candidates and, boy, have things changed.
When we last looked in early November, Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers were red-hot, Pekka Rinne had lost just one game in regulation, and people were wondering what the heck was wrong with Jonathan Quick.
Injuries have played a big part in the re-ranking, too, with last year's Hart Trophy winner Carey Price dropping off the radar—for now.
There are some strong emerging dark-horse candidates who could be this year's version of Devan Dubnyk over the season's second half. James Reimer has taken over the Toronto Maple Leafs net, John Gibson is playing well for the Anaheim Ducks, the Philadelphia Flyers are leaning on Michal Neuvirth and the Winnipeg Jets have a star in the making in Connor Hellebuyck.
But none of those goalies have started more than 20 games, so I'm keeping them off the list this time around. The short list also boasts save percentages of .920 or higher and a GAA under 2.30.
Click ahead to see the top candidates for the 2015-16 Vezina Trophy.
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers: Slumping his way through the month of December, Lundqvist has plummeted from his perch at the top of this list. His save percentage is still strong, thanks to his early-season efforts, but his 2.49 goals-against average hurts him. His 18 wins and potential to bounce back keeps him in contention.
Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins: Fleury has been the Penguins MVP this season, while the offense has let the team down. His wins and higher GAA are a symptom of team problems, but his eighth-best save percentage is an indication of how Fleury has kept the Pens in playoff contention so far.
Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild: Among goalies who've started at least 20 games, Dubnyk's stats land just around the top-10 mark. But in victories, he ranks seventh. He's not yet at the level he reached with the Wild over the season's second half last year, but he's still capable of that big run and climbing these rankings.
7. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
Previous ranking: Unranked
By the numbers: 15-13-3 record, .924 save percentage, 2.06 goals-against average, one shutout
Bottom line: The Tampa Bay Lightning have not looked like the team that made it to the Stanley Cup Final last spring, but Ben Bishop hasn't been the reason. The big 6'7" backstop has the league's fourth-best goals-against average and eighth-best save percentage among goalies who have played at least 25 games. Bishop was selected to the Atlantic Division's All-Star team on Wednesday, according to NHL.com, and has been the Bolts MVP so far.
6. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks
Previous ranking: Seventh
By the numbers: 21-10-2 record, .925 save percentage, 2.22 goals-against average, six shutouts
Bottom line: The two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Chicago Blackhawks has been a constant between the pipes even as the team has changed dramatically in front of him. As critical as Patrick Kane's point production has been for the Hawks, Corey Crawford's consistent play in goal has been just as necessary to help the defending champs remain one of the Western Conference's top seeds. He leads the league in shutouts and is third in victories. If he can boost his personal stats, he can climb even higher on this list.
5. Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils
Previous ranking: Eighth
By the numbers: 17-12-5 record, .927 save percentage, 2.06 goals-against average, three shutouts
Bottom line: Cory Schneider is one of the league's best goalies but never hears his name mentioned among the elite. That is partially due to the team's past performance, but with the New Jersey Devils in a wild-card position halfway through the season, the playoffs are a real possibility.
His numbers are among the best, including the league's sixth-best GAA and save percentage. He's also seventh in wins and second in overall minutes.
4. Jake Allen, St. Louis Blues
Previous ranking: Honorable mention
By the numbers: 18-10-2 record, .926 save percentage, 2.11 goals-against average, five shutouts
Bottom line: Jake Allen has completely taken over the St. Louis Blues net, making the time share with Brian Elliott a distant memory. He ranks 10th in starts and fourth in wins, with the second-best shutout total and top-eight numbers in both save percentage and goals-against average. The 25-year-old is finally living up to the huge expectations while playing in arguably hockey's toughest division.
3. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
Previous ranking: Unranked
By the numbers: 22-9-1 record, .923 save percentage, 2.12 goals-against average, three shutouts
Bottom line: Overcoming a rocky start to their season, the Los Angeles Kings are now in the driver's seat in the Pacific Division standings, and Jonathan Quick is looking like the playoff MVP of 2012. He has a floppy and aggressive style that doesn't always lead to the greatest in save percentages, so the fact his is the best it's been since 2012 bodes well for him and the Kings the rest of the way. He's second in goaltender wins—arguably the most important category of all.
2. Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers
Previous ranking: Sixth
By the numbers: 18-11-3 record, .930 save percentage, 2.06 goals-against average, three shutouts
Bottom line: Roberto Luongo is looking like the elite goaltender of years past who patrolled the crease for the Vancouver Canucks in better times. Florida must appeal to him because the 36-year-old has helped the Panthers become one of the NHL's better stories of the season. The Cats are leading the Atlantic Division and have strung together 10 wins in a row.
Luongo's wins, save percentage and goals-against average are all top-five, but when you eliminate those who have started fewer than 20 games, his GAA and save percentage are second only to Braden Holtby.
1. Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
Previous ranking: Unranked
By the numbers: 25-4-2 record, .932 save percentage, 1.93 goals-against average, two shutouts
Bottom line: Braden Holtby is a big part of the reason his Washington Capitals are dominating the Eastern Conference standings and looking like a lock for the Metropolitan Division title. The athletic and intelligent 26-year-old leads the league in wins, has the third-best save percentage and has the second-best goals-against average. His heroics earned him the NHL's nod for second star for the month of December. He didn't lose in regulation all month and has yet to do so in the new year.
Stats via NHL.com.
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