When Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins won the Vezina Trophy in 2011, it was a bit of a rarity because he appeared in 57 games that season. It had been 21 years since a goaltender played in fewer games and won the Vezina, dating to when Patrick Roy played 54 games in 1989-90 and captured the trophy.
Thomas made 55 starts in 2011, which constitutes 67.1 percent of his team’s games that season. There’s an above-average chance the Vezina winner in 2013 will play an even lower percentage of games on his way to the award.
Some of this season’s best goaltenders find themselves in an even time share. Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks has started 14 games and is second in the National Hockey League with a 1.41 goals-against average and .940 save percentage. Viktor Fasth of the Anaheim Ducks has come on strong in place of Jonas Hiller, posting a 9-1-1 record and 2.08 GAA with 11 starts.
Other goaltending leaders have dealt with injuries and haven’t played as many games as the season reaches the halfway point. Craig Anderson of the Ottawa Senators leads the League with a 1.49 GAA and .952 save percentage, but an ankle injury has limited him to 15 games. Kari Lehtonen has carried the Dallas Stars this season with a 2.26 GAA and .930 save percentage, but has started 13 games because of a groin injury.
How will general managers decide on this year’s Vezina winner if the trend continues? As of now, Crawford, Fasth, Anderson and Lehtonen have played less than 65 percent of their teams’ games. Will GMs reward the flashy numbers, or the goaltenders who carry a far heavier load in this shortened season and have less-impressive numbers?
At this point, we at NHL.com are awarding the Vezina to Anderson, who has been the best goaltender during the first half of the season. Anderson banked a lot of his numbers before getting hurt -- he's been out since Feb. 21 -- but he’s still been the most impressive to this point.
Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks – The Sharks have been brutal offensively. They stand 28th in the League in goals per game at 2.19, barely ahead of the Ottawa Senators and Nashville Predators. San Jose also has been below average defensively, giving up nearly 29 shots per game. Despite it all, Niemi has a 1.83 GAA and .935 save percentage, good for third in the League.
Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks -- He has allowed two goals or fewer in 12 of his 14 starts (although he was injured in the first period of one start) and has stopped fewer than 91 percent of shots in an individual game once this season. Yes, the Blackhawks are scoring better than three goals per game, but Crawford has six one-goal victories and he allowed two goals or fewer in all of them.