Vezina Trophy Top 5: Who's Leading the Race as the NHL's Best Goalie?February 7, 2022
Vezina Trophy Top 5: Who's Leading the Race as the NHL's Best Goalie?
The Vezina Trophy is awarded each year to the NHL's top goaltender, as voted by the league's 32 general managers. Named in memory of the Montreal Canadiens' Georges Vezina, it was first awarded in 1927 and is the league's third-oldest individual award.
Hall of Famers such as Jacques Plante, Terry Sawchuk, Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur and Dominik Hasek are among the notable former winners of this prestigious trophy. Marc-Andre Fleury took home the award last season with the Vegas Golden Knights.
Our 2022 midseason leaders include a former winner in Tampa Bay Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy. Those jockeying for position include several first-time contenders such as the New York Rangers' Igor Shesterkin.
Here's our take on the top five Vezina Trophy challengers thus far. Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts on this topic in the comments section.
Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida Panthers
The only active multiple Vezina Trophy winner, Bobrovsky's performance this season has been overshadowed by the Panthers' high-octane offense. Nevertheless, the 33-year-old is among the top 10 goaltenders with 23 wins and a .920 save percentage.
John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks
If Gibson doesn't become a Vezina Trophy finalist, perhaps he'll get consideration for the Hart Memorial Trophy. He's been the MVP for a rebuilding Ducks team that has exceeded expectations by jockeying for a playoff berth in the Western Conference. His 2.49 goals-against average and .922 save percentage rank among the top 10 goaltenders.
Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins
Jarry has enjoyed a solid bounce-back effort from last season's inconsistent effort. He's reduced his goals- against average from last season's 2.75 to 2.21, while his save percentage has improved from .909 to .923. He's among the top 10 in those categories as well as in wins (23) and shutouts (three).
Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames
The 32-year-old Markstrom was on a record-setting pace when he had five shutouts in his first 13 games. He's only had two since then but still leads the league in that category. Markstrom has struggled of late but remains among the top 10 with a 2.20 GAA and a .923 save percentage.
Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders
Sorokin's been among the few bright spots in a disappointing season for the Islanders. His 2.31 GAA, .924 save percentage and four shutouts rank among this season's top 10 for goaltenders. His stock could rise if he can backstop the Isles into the postseason.
5. Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs
Acquired from the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 5, 2020, by the Toronto Maple Leafs as a backup for Frederik Andersen, Jack Campbell played his way into the starter's job last season, resulting in Andersen's departure last summer via free agency. A late-blooming star, the 30-year-old has earned his way into the Vezina Trophy conversation midway through this campaign.
With four shutouts, Campbell is tied with the New York Islanders' Ilya Sorokin for second-most among all NHL goaltenders thus far. His .925 save percentage ranks fourth, his 2.30 goals-against average is sixth and he's among the top 10 with 21 wins. He's also lost just six games and has only three overtime defeats.
Campbell's efforts have played a significant role in the Leafs maintaining a comfortable hold on a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. If his solid first-half performance continues over the remainder of the season, he could become a Vezina finalist.
4. Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators
After spending his first three full NHL seasons backing up Pekka Rinne, Juuse Saros spent the past two years taking over as the Nashville Predators' starting goaltender. This season, the 26-year-old is finally emerging from the shadow of the franchise's greatest goaltender as an outstanding netminder in his own right.
With 24 wins, Saros is tied with the Carolina Hurricanes' Frederik Andersen for second among all goalies while his .927 save percentage ranks third overall. He's also among the top 10 with a 2.35 goals-against average.
After struggling through the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 campaign and getting bounced from the opening round of the 2021 playoffs, the Predators weren't expected to be a postseason contender this season. Thanks in part to Saros' solid goaltending, they're second overall in the Western Conference.
3. Frederik Andersen, Carolina Hurricanes
After five seasons facing a heavy workload with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Frederik Andersen signed a two-year contract with the Carolina Hurricanes last summer. Coming off an injury-hampered 2020-21 campaign with the Leafs, the 32-year-old goaltender had something to prove following last season's disappointing results.
So far, Andersen has silenced his critics and is on track for the best season of his NHL career. He leads the league with a 2.01 goals-against average and is tied for second with the Nashville Predators' Juuse Saros with 24 wins. The Hurricanes netminder also sits second overall with a .929 save percentage.
Andersen is playing behind a better defense in Carolina compared to what he had during his years in Toronto. However, that doesn't detract from the outstanding effort he's put forth this season with his new club. He's provided the Hurricanes with the stability that was previously lacking in their crease and must be considered a legitimate contender for the Vezina.
2. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning became back-to-back Stanley Cup champions thanks in part to Andrei Vasilevskiy. Winner of the 2021 Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, the 27-year-old goaltender also won the Vezina Trophy in 2018-19 and was a finalist in 2017-18, 2019-20 and 2020-21. He was also named to the First All-Star Team in 2019 and 2021.
In his sixth season as a full-time NHL starter, Vasilevskiy is also among the top goaltenders midway through this campaign. He's the leader with 25 wins and sits third in games played with 36. He's also fifth with a 2.23 goals-against average and is ninth with a save percentage of .922.
Vasilevskiy could be considered the best goaltender in the world today. It wouldn't be surprising if he becomes a finalist for the fifth straight season and wins his second Vezina. He's a big reason why the Lightning are once again among the top teams in the Eastern Conference. They have a terrific shot at winning their third straight Cup with Vasilevskiy between the pipes.
1. Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers
It's taken just three NHL seasons for the New York Rangers' Igor Shesterkin to take his place among the league's elite goaltenders. The 26-year-old is enjoying a marvelous performance thus far this year and must be considered the midseason leader for the Vezina Trophy.
Shesterkin's stats speak for themselves. Among goalies with at least 20 games played this season, the Rangers netminder has a league-leading .937 save percentage. He's second in goals-against average (2.10) and sits among the league leaders with 22 wins and three shutouts in 28 starts. He managed this despite missing a combined 12 games to a lower-body injury and COVID-19 protocols.
The Rangers are a much-improved club this season thanks in large part to Shesterkin's goaltending, jockeying for first place in the Eastern Conference standings. If he can maintain that high level of performance over the remainder of the regular season, he could be taking home his first Vezina honors.
Stats (as of Feb. 6, 2022) via NHL.com.