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Hunting For A Vezina

Tim Fuller-USA Today Sports

Three NHL goalies are helping their teams dominate, and another might singlehandedly lead his team to a playoff spot.

Sergei Bobrovsky. Connor Hellebuyck. Andrei Vasilevskiy. These three starting goaltenders are leading the pack when it comes to outstanding individual performance, and their teams are dominating their divisions largely due to the play of their netminders.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are currently second in the Metropolitan Division, with a 15-8-1 record, and Sergei Bobrovsky has a lot to do with their position. He’s played eight straight contests and has won six in a row, including shutouts against the New York Rangers and Calgary Flames, before a loss to the Montreal Canadiens. 

The two-time Vezina Trophy recipient is 14-5-1 this season, allowing only 39 goals and compiling a 1.91 GAA, which is currently the best in the league and the only GAA beneath 2.00. He also has a .936 save percentage, again a league-leading performance. Bobrovsky is 3-2 against divisional rivals, however, and four of the team’s next five games are against Metropolitan opponents.

Like Columbus, the Winnipeg Jets are flying high, with a 15-6-3 record, good for second in the Central Division. Connor Hellebuyck continues to impress as a clear-cut starter after Ondrej Pavalec joined the New York Rangers and Michael Hutchinson was assigned to the AHL. Hellebuyck is 13-2-2 so far this season, and the 24-year-old has only allowed 41 goals.

One year removed from a campaign in which he had a 26-19-4 record and Winnipeg finished seven points shy of a playoff spot, Hellebuyck is showing his worth in net and leading his team to much-needed victories. Four of them have been one-goal affairs, making every win a crucial one.

Meanwhile, Andrei Vasilevskiy’s stellar play has proven to be the spark the Tampa Bay Lightning needed. They’re leading the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference with a record of 16-5-2, and they also lead the NHL in goal differential (+24), power play success percentage (26.7%) and average goals per game (3.70).

Vasilevskiy, in his first full season as Tampa Bay’s starter after Ben Bishop was traded last season, has more than risen to the occasion, compiling a 15-3-1 record. Only once so far has his save percentage dipped below .870 in a single game, in an October 30 contest against the Florida Panthers, and his team still won 8-5. The 23-year-old netminder has a .930 save percentage, one shutout, and a 2.31 GAA.

In terms of GAA, save percentage, and wins, only Bobrovsky, Hellebuyck and Vasilevskiy rank in the top 10 in all three categories right now. But there’s one unexpected player who’s been making a name for himself as of late: Boston Bruins goaltender Anton Khudobin.

The 31-year-old Khudobin is undefeated in regulation so far, with a 7-0-2 record while backing up the Bruins’ struggling starter Tuukka Rask. Even though Rask has a respectable 207-131-50 career with Boston, he’s only 3-8-2 this season. Rask has played nearly 300 more NHL games than Khudobin, and is a year younger than his back-up. Khudobin had won four straight, all by just one or two goals, before Rask gave up three in a 4-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. 

It appears, at least with regards to their current performances, that Rask, the 21st overall pick of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, might have his position usurped by Khudobin, who was chosen with the 206th pick during the 2004 Draft.

Boston has a meager 24 points in the standings, a far cry from Tampa Bay’s 34, Winnipeg’s 33 and Columbus’ 31. However, the Atlantic Division has a wide parity gap between Tampa and Toronto, and the other six teams in the division. It’s not inconceivable to imagine Khudobin’s performance leading his squad to the third Atlantic playoff position, as long as he continues to excel.

As for Bobrovsky, Hellebuyck and Vasilevskiy? Expect them to continue their impressive goaltending, and, barring injury, help their teams make deep playoff runs. At the end of the season, one of these three men might be a Stanley Cup champion, and all three could be in the conversation for the Vezina Trophy. 


Edited by Jeremy Losak.

SQuiz
What is the record for the most NHL shutouts by one goaltender in one season?
Created 11/25/17
  1. 15
  2. 17
  3. 20
  4. 22

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