The transformation of David Rittich into a starting goaltender for the Calgary Flames has been one of the biggest stories of the season thus far. Through 51 games, Rittich is one of the biggest reasons for the Flames’ climb up the standings. Could he parlay his superb season into a Vezina Trophy?
The Vezina Trophy is awarded to the goaltender who is “adjudged to be the best at this position.” It’s named after Georges Vezina, star goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens from 1911-25. He came down with tuberculosis prior to the 1925-26 season and soon passed away, so the Habs donated the trophy the following season to be given to the league’s top netminder.
The award is determined by a vote of the NHL’s 31 general managers at the end of the regular season.
- 2017-18: Pekka Rinne (Nashville)
- 2016-17: Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus)
- 2015-16: Braden Holtby (Washington)
Last year’s voting leaders
(Voting points awarded on a 5-3-1 basis.)
|Pekka Rinne (NSH)||129||22||6||1||.927||2.31|
|Connor Hellebuyck (WPG)||82||7||14||5||.924||2.36|
|Andrei Vasilevskiy (TBL)||21||0||5||6||.920||2.62|
|Frederik Andersen (TOR)||12||1||2||1||.918||2.81|
|Marc-Andre Fleury (VGK)||11||1||1||3||.927||2.24|
Rinne probably got the Vezina last year because he had strong box-car statistics: he was third in wins, third in save percentage and goals against average, and first in even strength save percentage. The only players ahead of him in most statistical categories were Antti Raanta (who was a sub-0.500 goalie) and Marc-Andre Fleury (who played way fewer games than Rinne).
Based on the voting patterns over the past few seasons, strong box-cars over a large in-season sample size will get a goalie into contention. If you’re a leader in most of the categories, you might win.
Handicapping Rittich’s candidacy
Let’s walk through the box-cars:
- Wins: Rittich has 19, tied with Jacob Markstrom and Sergei Bobrovsky for eighth.
- Even strength save percentage: Rittich is 0.930, third among goaltenders who have played 30+ games.
- Save percentage: Rittich is 0.918, fourth among goaltenders who have played 30+ games.
- Goals against average: Rittich is 2.47, third among goaltenders who have played 30+ games.
Nobody is ahead of Rittich in all four categories. Frederik Andersen is ahead of Rittich in wins, even strength save percentage and save percentage. Ben Bishop is ahead of Rittich in save percentage and goals against average (and he’s far enough behind in terms of wins that he’s probably not a big threat).
If the Flames remain one of the NHL’s top handful of teams and Rittich is the goalie that gets them there, it seems pretty likely that he’ll get a good number of votes for the Vezina. Right now Andersen seems the main competition for the award.