Back again Hockey fans to finish off our mid year awards. While I initially planned on looking at coaches and goalies today, I’ve decided to forgo coaches until the end of the year, as some teams (Pittsburgh, Columbus), changed coaches and there isn’t a huge amount of data to draw conclusions from just yet. However, there is PLENTY to look at for goalies, so without further adue.
Vezina Trophy (Best Goalie)
Here’s another guy, like Karlsson for the Norris, who might just run away with it. While Holtby’s quality has been apparent for a few years, it wasn’t until this season that the hype was truly lived up to, and when you watch him play, good lord is he good. The saying, “stands on his head” is thrown around when talking about a goalie more or less keeping a team in games, but he’s doing this on a nightly basis. While his save percentage is the top 3 for someone who’s played the number of games he has, the numbers don’t totally show his dominance. Even though they’re all solid, the advanced stats aren’t quite there like the NFL, where you can really look at just the numbers and gather a solid grasp on the league. With that, he’s someone you need to watch. Yes, he has a better blue line in front of him this year, but that bump is rubbing off on him as well, and he just looks like a wall in net.
Before the season, I could’ve predicted the other guys I’m listing here, but a seasoned veteran like Luongo? Definitely not. After seeing the Florida Panthers rise to dominance as the best team in the Atlantic, it’s clear that he needs Vezina consideration. Like Holtby, he has strong stats, but the real argument for Luongo is his leadership and his sheer perseverance. A goalie that plays his style, a butterfly athletic guy, usually doesn’t age as well as Luongo has. He hasn’t really seemed to have lost a step. Yes, back when he was on Vancouver, he was the best in the league without question and just an unbreakable shield in the crease, but this is different; he seems to be feeding the younger core of the Panthers with his drive and quality. Even though he doesn’t have a ring, he needs to be considered one of the all time great goalies, and while he more than likely won’t get one this year, his numbers are some of the best of his career.
This was a really difficult choice. My third man very easily could have been New Jersey’s Cory Schneider, who just seems to drag that Devils team to wins year in year out. The numbers, however, gave it to Crawford. Quick run down of his most important stats to me, his save percentage is the best for someone who’s played the majority of games like he has at .932, and his shots against AND saves are the highest in the league. Throw in the most shut outs in the league, and in a normal year he’d be a near lock for the Vezina. As I said with Holtby, he seemingly keeps his team in games, and in Crawford’s case, he keeps record breaking streaks going but largely unnoticed. When you’re playing with the probable MVP in Patrick Kane, the best leader in the NHL in Jonathan Toews, and some of the best defensemen in the league in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, it’s easy to lose him in the shuffle. That said, he might just be the best goalie over the past 5 years (again, Schneider would fight for that too). He gets a lot of comparisons to Chris Osgood, a goalie I remember vividly crushing my dreams on the Red Wings in the 90s, but I think that’s a disservice to Crawford. Osgood is an excellent goalie, but Crawford might be the best of this generation (I know, Price is amazing. Let’s see him not get sidelined and we can talk).
And there you have it. I’ve loved every second of the NHL season this year, and each night brings out new narratives and moments to draw anyone in. Jump on board folks, you don’t want to miss this.