The Vezina Trophy is awarded annually to the goaltender who is “adjudged to be the best at this position.” The award is decided by a vote from all 32 general managers of the NHL. Only one of the three goaltenders up for the award is involved in the conference finals. The three finalists are three of the biggest names, and one of the goaltenders stands out from the pack.
Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators (+6000)
In his first season as a starting goaltender, Juuse Saros took the bull by the horns and led his team to a Stanley Cup Playoff berth. With Pekka Rinne’s retirement, the 27-year-old became the Nashville Predators ace, and he rewarded them with a 38-win season. He made the All-Star Game along with defenseman Roman Josi and finished seventh in save percentage (.919) among goaltenders who played at least 50 games.
It’s unlikely he’ll hear his name called for the Vezina, but it’s already an honour that he’s a top-three finalist. He made great strides transitioning from sharing the crease last year to leading the league in games started with 67. The Predators were in good hands when he was between the pipes, and his playoff absence led to the team’s collapse in the postseason.
Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames (+800)
Becoming the first Calgary Flames goaltender to become a finalist for the Vezina since Miikka Kiprusoff in 2006-07, Jacob Markstrom had a career year across the board. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who believes the Flames would make a push for a playoff spot. With the replacement of their head coach and low points in the season, Markstrom was one of the lights at the end of the tunnel.
Tied for third with a .922 SV% and top five in goals-against average (2.22), games played (63), and wins (37), Markstrom also led the league with nine shutouts. He was out-of-this-world good and helped the Flames win some games they had no business taking two points. Unfortunately, he fell apart in the second round of the playoffs against the Edmonton Oilers, but thankfully the award is decided on regular-season performance only.
Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers (-1500)
Barring any major upset, Igor Shesterkin should hear his name called upon when the Vezina Trophy is awarded. He led the league with a .935 SV% and a 2.02 GAA, finishing the year with a 36-13-4 record and six shutouts. Of the three finalists, Shesterkin played the fewest amount of games (53), but his outstanding record and tremendous performances helped elevate the New York Rangers and can’t be ignored.
The last time the Rangers had a Vezina-winning goaltender was back in 2011-12 when Henrik Lundqvist was still King. He posted a 39-18-5 record with a 1.97 GAA and a .920 SV%. Shesterkin’s lower count of games played shouldn’t be much of a factor, as one year ago, Marc-Andre Fleury took home the award after playing just 36 games. In terms of impact on his team and overall play, it’s hard not to go with the sole goaltender still in the postseason.
Odds via SportsBettingDime.com
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