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May 6, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) makes a glove save against the Washington Capitals during the second period in game three of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

NHL's Top Goaltenders: Who Is Most Worthy Of The Vezina Trophy?

Apr 16, 2013; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi (31) blocks a shot against the Los Angeles Kings during the first period at HP Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

With the finalists set for the NHL’s Vezina trophy, which is awarded to the top goaltender in the league, let the speculation begin!  The three finalists are Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers, Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks and Sergei “The #1 Cop In Town” Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

While you may all be familiar with Niemi, the other two have had equally good years.  But who deserves to be called the NHL’s top goaltender for 2013?  First we’ll go through the stats, which includes everything from minutes played to save percentage.

Many people are calling for Bobrovsky to win the award this year, and with good reason based on statistics.  Some might say he cannot win because his team is not even in the playoffs but let’s face it, goalies stop goals, not score them.  Also, the Vezina is awarded to the best goaltender of the year, and nowhere does it stipulate your team has to be playoff-bound.

Obviously my bias is to lean towards Niemi because I have seen him play more than the other two.  From what I have seen from Bobrovsky he has been unbeatable, especially when he faced the Sharks.

For Lundqvist I must admit I have not seem him play much this year so you can take that for what it’s worth.  Perhaps a little west-coast bias is in order rather than the usual east-coast bias we westerners love to complain about come awards season.

I added in a few other statistical categories as well that might show how a team hurt or helped their goaltender (blocked shots, takeaways and goals per game) as well as another unique statistic usually not looked at, how well their save percentage was when their team was at even-strength and with a man-disadvantage.

After examining all these numbers I say Bobrovsky has to win it.  First of all, his save percentage and goals against averages are the highest, not to mention his even-strength save percentage which is a phenomenal .941.  This stat is important because it shows just how good he is when his team is in five-on-five situations when a majority of the game is played.

Niemi’s case comes from the sheer volume of games and shots he faced, as well as owning the highest win total of any goaltender in the league at 24, along with Lundqvist.  Their four shutouts rank tops as well, but to be honest I do not weigh shutouts heavily when determining best goaltender.

Why? It just seems like shutouts have a certain amount of luck involved compared to the other statistics.  I do like Niemi’s PP against save percentage which is the best of the three and pretty decent as well.

Henrik and Niemi also benefit from having better defenses than Bobrovsky, yet Sergei still has the better numbers across the board.  San Jose and New York were among the top teams in the league at blocking shots and helped their goaltenders game in and game out.

Apr 25, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) faces the Dallas Stars attack during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Blue Jackets defeated the Stars 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The only reason you could probably vote againts Bobrovsky is because he played five less games and had at three less wins than the other two goaltenders.

Playing less games also may have helped his numbers a bit as well when you look at save percentage and goals against, but the fact remains the same that he had the best numbers this season.

In the end, the vote has to go to Bobrobsky even though my bias clearly lies with Niemi.  The reason I would still vote for Niemi is because game in and game out he has bailed out one of the most turnover-prone teams in the league and essentially carried the Sharks through the middle part of the season.

With that being said, Bobrovsky did the same and had even less support from his teammates than Niemi, thus he gets the vote.

Tags: Antti Niemi Columbus Blue Jackets Henrik Lundqvist New York Rangers San Jose Sharks Sergei Bobrovsky Vezina Trophy

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