You know that scene in Casino where Joe Pesci is playing Blackjack and the dealer keeps hitting him with bust cards? Well his rant towards the casino staff was word for word how I responded when I got word that neither Chicago Blackhawks goalie was nominated as a finalist for this year’s Vezina Trophy.
Well almost word for word.
The Vezina trophy is awarded annually to the NHL‘s goaltender who is “adjudged to be the best at this position.”
You got that?
Good. Me too.
Unfortunately the 30 general managers that vote on the award don’t know the difference between “Best” and “Most Valuable,” so I’m gonna spell it out for them.
Earlier this week Antti Niemi, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Henrik Lundqvist were nominated as the three finalists. All solid guys, and very “Valuable” to their teams, however since there seems to be some confusion about “Valuable” versus “Best,” we’re gonna break out the great equalizer in the goalie universe—the points percentage stat.
I think you’ll find that Hawks goalies Corey Crawford and Ray Emery deserved just a tad more respect.
The points percentage statistic should be called into play when you discuss the word “Best” for net minders. Give the guy two points for each game he started, and then divide that number by the total possible points he might have earned: two for a win, and a single point for an OT loss.
Voilà! The percentage in which a goalie actually wins tells us who’s best at their job. And sure it helps to be on a good team, but do we hold that against pitchers when the Cy Young comes up?
I rest my case, your honor. Now let’s proceed with the prosecution.
We’ll start with San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi. Now I love Niemi; he won the Cup in 2010 for the Hawks and for that, I’ll always be grateful, however the reality is he is nowhere near the “best” at his position.
Niemi’s record this season was 24-12-6, which gave him 84 possible points (42 starts x 2 points). His record earned him 54 points (24 wins=48 points plus six OT loss points) and so if you crunch the numbers his points percentage is .642.
What about Bobrovsky? He went 21-6-6 for the Columbus Blue Jackets with 37 starts. That gives him 48 points (21 wins x 2pts plus six points for OT losses) divided by 74 possible points (37 starts x 2pts) for a points percentage of .648
Lundqvist? 24-16-3 on 43 starts. So we tally the New York Rangers goalie at 51 points (21 wins x 2pts plus three for OT losses) divided by his total possible of 86 which puts him at .593
Crawford meanwhile went 19-5-5, which puts his total possible points at 58 (29 games each worth two points). His record tells us he’s amassed 43 points (19 wins=38 points plus five points for OT losses) and so when we do the math his points percentage is .741—best in the league.
Emery? He went 17-1-0 in 19 starts which means he racked up 34 points out of a possible 38 (19 starts x 2pts). That puts his points percentage at .894. Now he might not have had as many starts as the rest of these guys but c’mon. This is a man of respect; give him some!
So, I ask you: who’s really “Best” at their job?
What’s that? “Well the nominees don’t have the defense or scoring the Hawks have!”
Fair enough. Let’s take a look at a pure goalie stat—Save Percentage.
In this category Bobrovsky comes in at second (.932), while Lundqvist is tied for fifth (.926) with Crawford, and Niemi is 8th (.924). Emery you ask? 11th (.922). So what are we talking about here?
Ten one thousandths separates the guy in second from the guy in 11th.
Please don’t tell me five one thousands made the difference?
In hockey the “Best” goalie should be defined as the guy who gets his team the win based on how often he plays. And if you wanna split hairs and say Emery played less than half the season? Fine with me, but pick a number—like baseball does with plate appearances—and hold everyone to it.
I’ll leave it at this:
How do you snub Crawford? He’s the top goalie—on the top team—with the top points percentage. He’s also second in Goals Against, second in shutouts and fifth in save percentage.
Where’s Joe Pesci when you need him?