With the NHL All-Star break is just two weeks away, the season-long awards race is starting to come into focus. Five goalies have stood out as legitimate Vezina nominees as we pass the halfway point of the 2018-19 campaign. Here are five goalies whose first-half performance merits consideration for the league’s top goalie award.
5. Marc-Andre Fleury – Vegas Golden Knights
Marc-Andre Fleury has been playing for so long, it’s of easy to forget just how good he is. The 34-year-old Golden Knights netminder leads the NHL in wins (25 in 40 games) while posting a 2.48 goals against average and a .912 save percentage in all situations. His even-strength numbers aren’t spectacular, as he’s sporting a .915 save percentage, but Fleury keeps on winning. It’d be unfair to make a Vezina list and not include the guy who leads the league in wins.
4. David Rittich – Calgary Flames
Rittich’s success is further proof goalie performance is unpredictable. The 26-year-old Czech native entered the season with eight career NHL wins as veteran Mike Smith’s backup. So far, Rittich’s stellar play has been a catalyst for the first-place Flames.
Rittich has won 16 times in 23 starts, posting a total 2.42 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. He ranks first in even strength save percentage at .936(9) and second in goals saved above average with 10.42 on the season. He’s putting up the single best season from a Flames goaltender since the mid-2000’s Miikka Kiprusoff era. Knocking his candidacy is his low start total, but if he remains the #1 in Calgary and keeps up his play, he’ll be a Vezina nominee.
3. Frederik Andersen – Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs are known for their high-powered offense, but Andersen’s play in the pipes is a big reason why the team is challenging for the best team in the East. The 29-year-old has won 20 of 30 games started this year, while putting up a 2.50 goals against average and a .923 save percentage. At even strength, he’s dominating. Despite facing 25.9 shots against at 5v5 per game, Andersen’s managed a .934 save percentage while allowing just 51 goals.
The Leafs defensive play (specifically from their defenseman) is below average, so Andersen’s asked to do a lot. He’s fully delivered and kept the Leafs in games they had no right to be in. In his sixth NHL-season, Andersen deserves to be a Vezina nom.
2. Pekka Rinne
Rinne earned the Vezina Trophy in 2017-18, putting up video game numbers with 42 wins in just 59 games. While the 6’5″ Fin hasn’t put up wins at the same pace, he’s once again shown he deserves to be the conversation for best goalie.
In 33 games, Rinne is 17-12-3, with a .919 save percentage and a 2.31 goals against average in all situations for the Central Division-leading Preds. Among goalies who’ve played at least 1000 5v5 minutes, Rinne ranks second overall with a .936 save percentage. Rinne doesn’t have a massive workload like some goalies, but he makes big saves when it counts. His .883 high-danger save percentage ranks first among qualified keepers.
At 35, Rinne is still an elite goalie with plenty left in the tank. He’s got a decent shot to become the first back-to-back Vezina winner since Martin Brodeur.
1. John Gibson – Anaheim Ducks
Gibson has singlehandedly kept the Anaheim Ducks playoff hopes alive in the midst of a nine-game losing streak. No goalie is more important to his team. On the season, the 25-year-old All-Star goalie is 15-13-1, with 2.62 goals against average and a .923 save percentage in all situations. Gibson’s brilliance shines when you take a look at his deeper stats.
Gibson sports a .935 save percentage while facing 23.8 shots per game at even strength. He ranks far and away as the top goalie in goals saved above average.
Goalie charts are updated
— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) January 11, 2019
On an Anaheim squad lacking defensive awareness under coach Randy Carlyle, Gibson has been a star. It’s a shame he doesn’t play for a better team because if he did, he’d not only be a top Vezina candidate but a top Hart Trophy pick as well. Gibson might single-handedly take the Ducks to the playoffs.