Playing goal in the National Hockey League is one of the most difficult feats in all of professional sports. Shots approach the NHL goalie at speeds up to 100-miles-per-hour-plus. A goaltender's own defensemen might inadvertently block his view, this sort of screening is exactly what opposing forwards are strategizing to do.
The goalie often makes the first save, maybe even on the first rebound but then a score occurs on an ensuing shot with the goalie stretched and prone or both. While far from every goal is the goaltender's fault, most fans don't recognize that.
Maybe that's why the NHL has two different goaltender awards. The Vezina Trophy is a vote by the NHL's team general managers to determine which individual goalie is the best among peers, these days factoring such statistics as save percentage and other stats beyond goals-against-average. In contrast, the Williams M. Jennings Trophy distinguishes which teams and its regular goaltenders have allowed the fewest goals over the course of a regular season.
The Jennings Trophy awards "the goaltender(s) having played a minimum of 25 games for the team with the fewest goals scored against it ... based on regular-season play." The Jennings is all about the final score of each game-how many goals did a team's goalies give up over the 82 games. It doesn't necessarily equate to the team with the best record in the league, but it is highly likely the club makes the playoffs.
One example: Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick won the Jennings as the primary goalie for the Kings with 203 goals against in the 2017-18 season (none of his backups played the requisite minimum of 25 games). The Kings earned 98 points good for a wild-card spot in the Western Conference despite a goals-scored total that was below average among playoff teams.
From 1946 until 1981, the Vezina Trophy was awarded using the Jennings criteria. In 1982, the GMs vote was added to the mix and the Jennings trophy was launched into NHL Awards. The hardware honors William M. Jennings, the longtime governor and president of the New York Rangers. New York Islanders goalies Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss allowing a league-low 191 goals last season. Fun fact: Lehner is now with Chicago but recently got a new tattoo that honors Long Island and his time with the franchise.
While not as steeped in hockey history as the Vezina, some all-time great NHL goalies are multiple Jennings winners: Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy each won it five times and Ed Belfour has four Jennings awards. All three have twice pulled off winning the Vezina and Jennings in the same season.
Four other goalies have won the Vezina-Jennings pair, mostly recently Carey Price in 2014-15, a season of 189 goals against for Montreal. In a rare occurrence, Corey Crawford and Chicago shared the Jennings that year with the same 189 goals against. Crawford and LA's Quick each won two Jennings in the last decade, not surprising when you consider Chicago won three Stanley Cups and Los Angeles won two in that span.
This season's Jennings race has strong contenders among the Columbus Blue Jackets (139 goals against in 57 games), Dallas Stars (142 GA in 56 games) and Boston (144 GA in 58 games). Each club has goalie tandems that roughly split the regular-season workload (and make for tough choices by coaches on who starts in the playoffs).
In Columbus, Joonas Korpisalo, 25, made the All-Star, got hurt and rookie Elvis Merzlikins, also 25, more than picked up the slack, currently sporting an impressive 93 percent (.930) in save percentage and five shutouts-both tops in the NHL. The CBJ goalies are keeping the team in the playoff mix, despite an offense that has scored the third fewest goals among Eastern Conference teams.
Dallas' Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin, both 33, man the Stars net with similar above-average save percentages. In Boston, Tuukka Rask, 32, and Jaroslav Halak, 34, (who shared a Jennings with Brian Elliott for St. Louis during the 2011-12 season) are helping Boston stay No. 1 among Eastern Conference clubs.
Here's a complete list of William M. Jennings Trophy winners in order from most recent:
2019: Robin Lehner / Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders
2018: Jonathan Quick , Los Angeles Kings
2017: Braden Holtby , Washington Capitals
2016: Frederik Andersen / John Gibson , Anaheim Ducks
2015: Corey Crawford / Carey Price , Blackhawks / Canadiens
2014: Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
2013: Corey Crawford / Ray Emery, Chicago Blackhawks
2012: Brian Elliott / Jaroslav Halak , St. Louis Blues
2011: Roberto Luongo / Cory Schneider , Vancouver Canucks
2010: Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
2009: Tim Thomas / Manny Fernandez, Boston Bruins
2008: Dominik Hasek / Chris Osgood, Detroit Red Wings
2007: Niklas Backstrom / Manny Fernandez, Minnesota Wild
2006: Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames
2004: Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
2003: Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
2003: Roman Cechmanek / Robert Esche, Philadelphia Flyers
2002: Patrick Roy, Colorado Avalanche
2001: Dominik Hasek, Buffalo Sabres
2000: Roman Turek, St. Louis Blues
1999: Ed Belfour / Roman Turek, Dallas Stars
1998: Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
1997: Martin Brodeur / Mike Dunham, New Jersey Devils
1996: Chris Osgood / Mike Vernon, Detroit Red Wings
1995: Ed Belfour, Chicago Blackhawks
1994: Dominik Hasek / Grant Fuhr, Buffalo Sabres
1993: Ed Belfour, Chicago Blackhawks
1992: Patrick Roy, Montreal Canadiens
1991: Ed Belfour, Chicago Blackhawks
1990: Andy Moog / Rejean Lemelin, Boston Bruins
1989: Patrick Roy / Brian Hayward, Montreal Canadiens
1988: Patrick Roy / Brian Hayward, Montreal Canadiens
1987: Patrick Roy / Brian Hayward, Montreal Canadiens
1986: Bob Froese / Darren Jensen, Philadelphia Flyers
1985: Tom Barrasso / Bob Sauve, Buffalo Sabres
1984: Al Jensen / Pat Riggin, Washington Capitals
1983: Roland Melanson / Billy Smith, New York Islanders
1982: Rick Wamsley / Denis Herron, Montreal Canadiens