Monday, April 21, 2008

Vezina finalists announced

The National Hockey League has announced the finalists for the 2007-08 Vezina Trophy, awarded to the league's top goaltender.

The nominees include Marting Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils, Evgeni Nabokov of the San Jose Sharks and Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers.
The award's voted on by the league's 30 general managers.

Giguere might have deserved a nomination, but I think we're going to be seeing Brodeur win again anyway. Nabokov will have an outside shot, although he's substantially behind in save percentage.

Here's the schedule for the nominee announcements:

Monday, April 21 Vezina Trophy (top goaltender)
Tuesday, April 22 James Norris Memorial Trophy (top defenseman)
Wednesday, April 23 Calder Memorial Trophy (top rookie)
Thursday, April 24 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (skill/sportsmanship)
Friday, April 25 Frank J. Selke Trophy (top defensive forward)
Tuesday, April 29 Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP)
TBD Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year)



At 12:54 p.m., April 21, 2008, Blogger FAUX RUMORS said...

1) Have to agree that the non-Brodeur nominees were merely a formality. Sure its nice to get mentioned, but not likely they'll win.
2)Probably Lundqvist is just fine finishing behind Marty for the vezina, and in front of him in the playoffs.
3) Its a tad ironic that the reason the Devils made the playoffs is because Brodeur played almost every game giving them a chance. Its also why they are no longer in the playoffs; because Marty played in almost every game all year!

At 2:03 p.m., April 21, 2008, Anonymous said...

Brodeur is an obvious choice for finalist, but as for Nabokov and Lundqvist, it's like the GM's just
looked at the Goaltender Wins column. Seriously.

Lundqvist finished with a .912 S% (18th in the NHL), a
.902 SQN% (21st), and was 15th amongst goalies in GSAA
(Goals Saved Above Average).

Nabby finished with a .910 S% (23rd in the NHL), a
below average .893 SQN% (32nd), and was 28th in GSAA.

How on earth Giguere and Vokoun didn't make that list
is beyond me.

re: the last poster's insinuation that the Devils' demise was somehow due to Broduer's tiredness...

Coming into the series, we knew that the Rangers had deeper forwards and a better team defensive system than the Devils. Brodeur was the equalizer. Even if Brodeur had had a spectacular series, the outcome would've been really close. But he was basically average, and it wasn't enough to make up for the Devils' team weaknesses against the Rangers.

But as to why he was average instead of spectacular, the "tiredness" thing is hogwash. Randomness/variance is the real culprit. Even an elite goaltender (which Brodeur certainly has been all season) will see his save percentage fluctuate quite a bit over a sample size of 150 shots.

At 4:22 p.m., April 21, 2008, Blogger Adam C said...

I'm not really convinced, Sunny, that hockey is a matter of rolling the dice on the percentages. Sometimes the games have to be played, too...

Sometimes save percentages fluctuate because of the fluctuating quality of the player making the saves.

At 4:41 p.m., April 21, 2008, Blogger poploser said...

I dont think it should be such a lock for Brodeur. You can dig down and find all sorts of meaningful statistics to support a case for all of them.

Brodeur has a losing record and only OK stats against his division: 12-15-3, with a 2.41 GAA, and .907 SP. 1 shut out.

Nabokov has slight winning record and more consistent stats against his division: 14-9-4, with a 2.08 GAA, and .914 SP. 3 shut outs.

Lundqvist is 6 games over .500 and has the best stats of all against his division:
17-7-4, 1.87 GAA, and .924 SP. 5 shut outs.

At 5:14 p.m., April 21, 2008, Anonymous Sevenmack said...

The thing that argues in Brodeur's favor is the number of saves he's made -- 1,920 -- which meant, based on his save percentage, that he faced over 2,000 shots during the season. The Devil's defense was basically porous and only Brodeur kept them in the thick.

Lundqvist and Nabokov did have around 1,600 saves each, showing that while their teams' respective defenses were better than that of the Devils, they weren't so good as to let each goalie coast during games. Lundqvist also had ten shutouts, amazing considering how up-and-down the Rangers' defense had been during most of the regular season. Nabokov, therefore, would probably be the odd man out between Brodeur and Lundqvist based on the low number of shutouts and the relatively high quality of San Jose's defense.

As for Giguere. He made just 1,300 saves during the season and faced fewer shots than either Brodeur, Lundqvist or Nabokov. And he had a low number of shutouts. He benefited from a great defense. So J.S. didn't deserve a Vezina nomination.

At 5:19 p.m., April 21, 2008, Anonymous Sevenmack said...

Also, you have to remember that a number of the top goalies in saves also played fewer games than either Lundqvist (72 games), Brodeur or Nabokov (the latter two each playing 77 games). Giguere played just 56 games; Chris Osgood played 43; Hasek played only 41. Dan Ellis played just 44 games; Christobel Huet played only 52; and Tim Thomas only played 57 games. They didn't prove that they could endure nearly a full season.

The three nominees showed through an entire season that they could hold up despite the wear-and-tear of a season.

At 6:17 p.m., April 21, 2008, Blogger Earl Sleek said...

Vezina Trophy = Most Games Played Trophy?

OK, whatever. It's a trophy that gets less definable every year, it seems.

At 6:18 p.m., April 21, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I'm fine with someone winning as long as they play more than 50 games and win most of them. Top netminders never used to have to play every single game to be considered 'the best.'

At 7:45 p.m., April 21, 2008, Blogger PJ Swenson said...

Look at the goals against for New Jersey (193) vs the goals against for San Jose (187), total saves for New Jersey (2064) vs total saves for San Jose (1794), and you will see the impact the Sharks defense had on limiting shots against.

Hard to put that as a knock on Nabokov, when he leads the league in wins (46), and he is tied for 3rd in goals against average (2.14) ahead of Brodeur. Brodeur is not top-5 in save percentage either.

The reason this award will probably go to Brodeur, most of the general managers are asleep when teams on the West Coast play. Even reporters in Montreal did not stay up for the Sharks-Habs game, which was one of the best of the year.

At 7:47 p.m., April 21, 2008, Blogger PJ Swenson said...

Here is video of Nabokov's best performance of the year:

At 7:51 p.m., April 21, 2008, Anonymous Sevenmack said...

Well, James, I'm not just saying it's about most games played, but how well you play over a long period of time. Simply put, a decent goaltender not named Martin Gerber can look decent over 40 or 50 games. The real test is how well you play in the marathon, at least three-quarters of the season. And 56 games isn't three-quarters of a season. Period.

Just as importantly, three-quarters of a season also tells you about the other factors with which the goalie must deal. A team that's playing really well during the last 40 games of a season will also help boost the numbers for a goalie; if the team performs badly in a 40-game span, then the goalie will look bad as well. None of that tells anyone about the performance of the team or the goalie during the full season, which is what matters most.

Giguere's stats look rather nice on its face. But what if he had to play 70 games, as Brodeur, Lundqvist and Nabokov have? It's difficult to say that Giguere's numbers would have held up over that period of time. You know what he did do in the regular season over a mere 56 games, and while those numbers are nice, they don't match up to the marathon performance of the three nominees.

Endurance matters. And the best goalies are both warhorses and show ponies all in one. That's why Brodeur and Patrick Roy, for example, are considered among the best of all time: They got both the gaudy numbers and the numbers that tell you that they are great during an entire season.

At 7:56 p.m., April 21, 2008, Anonymous Sevenmack said...

Good point, P.J., on the Nabokov vs. Brodeur numbers. The fact that the Sharks defense did such a good job in front of Nabokov versus that of the Devils, however, probably argues against Nabokov and for Brodeur.

The funny thing is that Brodeur had a worse defense in front of him than at any time in his career and yet, he may be worthier of a Vezina because of it than in all but the best of his previous years.

At 8:03 p.m., April 21, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Very few goalies have won the Vezina playing fewer than about 65 games in the past 30 years, but it's happened. Two of Roy's wins came in seasons where he played 48 and 54 games.

Lately, the low mark has been 64, however, so I can see how that holds Giguere back this season.

At 8:19 p.m., April 21, 2008, Blogger PJ Swenson said...

"The fact that the Sharks defense did such a good job in front of Nabokov versus that of the Devils, however, probably argues against Nabokov and for Brodeur."

True. I just thought I would get it out there.

At 8:39 p.m., April 21, 2008, Blogger Earl Sleek said...

Giguere's stats look rather nice on its face. But what if he had to play 70 games, as Brodeur, Lundqvist and Nabokov have? It's difficult to say that Giguere's numbers would have held up over that period of time. You know what he did do in the regular season over a mere 56 games, and while those numbers are nice, they don't match up to the marathon performance of the three nominees.

I don't care if Giguere gets a nod or not, but just to play devil's advocate, here's how the three Vezina guys did through their first 56 games:

Brodeur: 2.17 GAA, .919 sv%
Lundqvist: 2.32 GAA, .909 sv%
Nabokov: 2.21 GAA, .908 sv%

Then their year-end numbers:

Brodeur: 2.17 GAA, .920 sv%
Lundqvist: 2.23 GAA, .912 sv%
Nabokov: 2.14 GAA, .910 sv%

You seem pretty determined that a longer season would yield worse results, and maybe that's generally true, but I don't see it in these three guys. Each guy ended up with better surface stats than if he had stopped playing after appearance #56.

At 9:18 p.m., April 21, 2008, Anonymous said...

In my mind, the Vezina is for the "most valuable goalie." Period.

re: Playing Time

Value and playing time don't always correlate. Who cares if a goalie plays 82 games if he plays at a below average clip. On the other extreme, if a goalie had a save percentage of 100, he'd be the most valuable goalie even if he only played thirty games, because his 100 S% for thirty games plus a replacement level goalie S% for 52 games would still equal more wins for his team than a good goalie playing 82 games. We need some kind of VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) stat for goalies.

And of course we always need to adjust for defense if possible, as not all goalies face shots of equal quality. SQN% attempts to do this, but shot quality models are still pretty crude at this point imo. It's a good start though, and I'm hopeful that our information will improve in the future as data collection, etc improves.

At 4:28 p.m., April 23, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The last time I checked, there was little correlation between save pct. & shots faced per game.

So who cares how many shots per game a goalie faced?

On the other hand, "shot quality" is very important... e.g. shots faced from close-up, shots faced when the opposition has a p.p., etc.

Shot-quality neutral save % is the best stat out there, currently.

(By the way, Roy usually maxed out at 60-65 games played... not much more than Giguere's 56 GP this year.)

Here's hoping the NHL reduces the size of the still-giant goalie equp't... goalies with save pct's of .920?? No thanks. 20 yrs ago very few goalies had a save pct. over .900.

At 2:36 a.m., June 11, 2008, Anonymous 3remarkd said...

The hockey world needs to finally recognize that that SP (save percentage) is, as The Hockey News once put it, “the best statistical reflection of a goalie’s performance.” In a new era when Moneyball statisticians are illuminating the true value of baseball players, it’s disheartening that the NHL is still in the dark ages.

The selection of Henrik Lundqvist and Evgeni Nabokov as two of the three Vezina finalists by the Leagues’s GMs, and the generally positive reaction by analysts and fans, demonstrates how clueless most hockey people are regarding superior goaltending. Lundqvist’s .912 save percentage ranked 18th in the NHL, while Nabokov‘s .910 SP ranked 23rd. These are decidedly mediocre numbers. When 13 netminders let in only 8 goals per 100 shots, how is it possible that the “best” netminder let in 9 goals per 100 shots?

Voters admired Nabokov’s 2.14 GAA, 3rd best in the League. However, considering that he faced only 24 shots per game, it’s not surprising that he would allow fewer goals per game than, say, Tim Thomas, who faced 31 shots per game. It’s not a fair comparison. SP tells you volumes more than GAA about a goaltender’s ability, and Thomas was by far the better goalie with a .921 SP. And how about this: With a .922 SP, J.S. Giguere managed to achieve a lower GAA (2.12) than Nabokov while facing more shots per game (27).

Ironically, Nabokov’s SP was identical to that of Martin Gerber, often criticized this season for poor play. If the two had switched teams and schedules, with Nabokov facing 30 shots per game and Gerber facing 24 shots per game, Nabokov would be feeling the heat, while Gerber would be an award candidate.

Vezina voters were also dazzled by wins, as the three finalist ranked 1st, 2nd and 4th in that category. However, the finalists also ranked 1st, 2nd, and 6th in games played, so one would expect them to have more wins. Recall that last season Andrew Raycroft played 72 games and tied a Maple Leaf franchise record for most wins in a season, but did it with a miserable .894 SP – hardly an impressive achievement. Most goalies (unless injured) want to play every single game, but that decision is out of their hands. Moreover, wins are a team statistic. If I suggested that Tomas Kopecky was a better player than Vincent Lecavalier because he had more wins this season, I would be laughed out of the rink.

In the case of Lundqvist, voters were impressed by his League-leading 10 shutouts. However, a closer look reveals that Lundqvist gave up 4 or more goals 12 times in 72 games, while Giguere (with only 4 shutouts) gave up 4 or more goals only 6 times in 58 games. Moreover, Lundqvist gave up 5 or more goals 5 times, while Giguere went the entire season without giving up 5 or more goals. So who better deserves a Vezina – the goalie who is consistently excellent or the goalie who is perfect one night and lousy the next?

The SP rankings reveal that the three best goalies during the NHL regular season were Dan Ellis (.924 SP), Ty Conklin (.923 SP) and Giguere (.922 SP). If you want to set a minimum games played criteria of 55 games (two-thirds of 82 games), then the three best goalies were Giguere, Thomas (.921 SP) and Marty Brodeur (.920 SP). The Vezina should go to Giguere, but sadly he’s not even in the running.

Unfortunately, this confusion on the part of Vezina voters is nothing new. In 2003, Brodeur won the trophy despite having a .914 SP that was 15th in the NHL. That same season, Marty Turco led the League with a SP of .932. The following year, Brodeur’s .916 SP was again 15th in the League, and again he was awarded a Vezina. Mika Kiprusoff, Dwayne Roloson and Roberto Luongo had SPs of .933, .933 and .930 respectively, but voters were excited because Brodeur led the League in wins and shutouts. That season, Brodeur played 75 games, facing a little over 24 shots per game, while Luongo played 72 games, facing 35 shots per game, so naturally Brodeur won more games. Does anyone doubt that if Brodeur had played for Florida and Luongo had played for New Jersey, Luongo would have had more wins?

Why do we award goalies for middling performances in easy situations, and ignore goalies who put forth amazing performances in difficult situations? It’s very frustrating to witness mass delusion year after year. By no stretch of the imagination do Lundqvist or Nabokov deserve a Vezina.


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