2017/18 NHL Vezina Trophy: Carey Price Seeks Second Vezina
2017/18 Vezina Trophy Favorites
The list of likely Vezina winners consists of goaltenders who play for terrific teams, and the Montreal Canadiens. These five goalies offer the best bets for a Vezina Trophy before the 2017-18 NHL season begins. Which one would you pick?
Braden Holtby – Washington Capitals
Over the last three years, Braden Holtby’s been one of the most spectacular goaltenders in the NHL, shutting down the opposition without prejudice. During this span, Holtby has an amazing 131-42-23 record, along with a .923 SV%, 2.17 GAA and 21 shutouts.
He was awarded the Vezina Trophy in 2016, finishing with an incredible 48-9-7 record. Braden followed up with a second-place finish in Vezina voting the year after.
The Capitals earned consecutive Presidents’ Trophies during this time, a notable achievement even if it hasn’t translated to post-season success. Without Holtby around to bail out the Capitals, there’s little chance Washington finishes with the most points in the NHL two years in a row.
This year, the Capitals face a steep task ahead of them as teams like the Penguins and Maple Leafs appear to have improved, while the Caps have slightly regressed. Washington will rely on Holtby now more than ever, and if the netminder leads the Capitals to another top three regular season, he’ll be a front runner for the Vezina.
Carey Price – Montreal Canadiens
Most consider Carey Price the best goaltender in the NHL. Last year, Price stood on his head as usual, backstopping the Montreal Canadiens to a first-place finish in the Atlantic Division with a .923 SV%, 2.23 GAA and 37 wins. Carey finished third in Vezina voting.
The best year of Price’s career was the 2014-15 season, when he won the Hart Trophy, Vezina and William Jennings, becoming the first goaltender to do so since Jose Theodore dubiously won the MVP over Jarome Iginla in 2002. Unlike Theodore, no one doubted the Hart credentials of Price.
Similar to Washington, the Canadiens don’t appear to be much better than last year. As Montreal adjusts to new personnel, the team will rely on Price to smooth over any bumps in the transition between last year’s squad and this year’s lineup. Claude Julien also happens to be a fantastic defensive coach, boosting the odds of Carey winning the second Vezina of his career.
Matt Murray – Pittsburgh Penguins
Entering his second full season with two Stanley Cup rings under his belt, Matt Murray’s probably the luckiest goalie in the history of the NHL. Hockey intelligentsia still attempt to figure out if he’s lucky because he’s a good goalie, or if he’s just plain lucky to play on the Pittsburgh Penguins. Considering he wrestled the starting position away from Marc-Andre Fleury prior to finishing his first year, it’s likely the former.
After starting 60 games in the NHL, Murray has accumulated a .925 SV%, 2.32 GAA, 41 wins and five shutouts. Those types of numbers would qualify most goalies for consideration as a top three Vezina candidate. Even more promising, Murray has a stellar .928 SV%, 1.95 GAA stat line in 31 playoff starts, proving he doesn’t shy away in big moments.
One of the big knocks against Matt Murray as a Vezina candidate would be the quality of his team. The Pittsburgh Penguins are favorites to win a third straight Stanley Cup mostly because of Crosby and Malkin, while the rest of the lineup remains on the down-low, except Phil Kessel.
Cam Talbot – Edmonton Oilers
Cam Talbot’s rise as a top-five goalie in the NHL was obscured by the supernova of Connor McDavid’s 100-point, Hart Trophy season. Talbot’s workload was absolutely insane because the Oilers had no space for error, and backup Jonas Gustavsson couldn’t save a beach ball if he tried.
As a result, Talbot started 73 games, winning 42 of them and earning a .919 SV% and 2.39 GAA in the process. No goalie stared down as much rubber as Talbot during the 2016-17 season – he faced 2,117 shots, turning aside 1,946. Cam was so prolific that he made more saves than the goalie who faced the third most shots last year.
Edmonton appears to be average on defense again, and the injury to Andrej Sekera robs the unit of high-quality minutes. If coach Todd McLellan convinces the rest of the team to tighten up defensively, Cam’s numbers could breach the .920 SV%, 2.10 GAA mark, which would push him into the top three for the Vezina Trophy. Either way, he’ll be busy again this year.
Sergei Bobrovsky – Columbus Blue Jackets
Perhaps the most enigmatic goaltender in the NHL, Sergei Bobrovsky also happens to have the highest ceiling of play. After earning his first Vezina with a scorching .932 SV% and 2.00 GAA during the 2012-2013 season, Bobo disappeared for a few seasons as the Blue Jackets sunk into irrelevance. He suddenly regained his magnificent form last year, posting a .931 SV%, 2.06 GAA and 41 wins, including seven shutouts. Columbus reemerged as cup contenders during the regular season, before the reality of playoff hockey put that dream to rest.
Sergei richly deserved his second Vezina Trophy for the 2016-17 season, along with a third-place finish in Hart voting. Some believed that Sergei was the de facto MVP, more valuable to his team than Connor and Sid. Bobrovsky’s great enough to win a second straight Vezina, but only time will tell if he has another down season instead.
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