trophy tracker vezina Hellebuyck WPG

To mark the three-quarter point of the 2023-24 regular season, is running its third installment of the Trophy Tracker series. Today, we look at the race for the Vezina Trophy, awarded annually to the goalie voted to be the best in the League by NHL general managers.

Connor Hellebuyck has started to make the sensational look ordinary.

The Winnipeg Jets goalie made 23 saves in a 3-0 win against the Washington Capitals on Monday, his fourth shutout of the season. This marks the fifth straight season Hellebuyck has had at least four shutouts, the longest active streak among NHL goalies. It also was his 30th win, the fifth time in the past seven seasons he has won that many, second in that span to Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning (six).

"He was great back there," Jets captain Adam Lowry said Monday. "Incredible. And an indication of just how used the team is to his play."

Winnipeg is used to Hellebuyck dominating games, and so are voters, who again voted Hellebuyck the Vezina Trophy as the best goalie in the NHL at the three-quarter point of the season. A panel of 14 writers gave Hellebuyck 67 voting points, including 11 first-place votes. Thatcher Demko of the Vancouver Canucks was second with 48 points (two first-place votes), and Sergei Bobrovsky of the Florida Panthers was third with 46 points (one first-place vote).

Hellebuyck also was the Vezina favorite at the halfway point of the season.

The 30-year-old is 30-15-3 with a 2.33 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in 48 games, all starts. He's third in the NHL in GAA and second in save percentage among goalies to play at least 20 games, and his four shutouts are tied for fourth. His .935 even-strength save percentage is second in the NHL (minimum 20 games), with him facing 1,167 shots at even strength; Panthers goalie Anthony Stolarz has a .940 even-strength save percentage against 433 shots in 21 games.

WSH@WPG: Hellebuyck blanks the Capitals with 23 saves

Hellebuyck has allowed two goals or fewer 29 times, including 20 of 21 games between Nov. 17 and Jan. 20, and has had a save percentage of at least .900 in 66.7 percent of his starts (32 of 48). Entering Wednesday, he also had faced 392 high-danger shots, according to NHL EDGE stats, tied for the second-most in the NHL, with an .829 save percentage on high-danger shots, which ranked eighth.

"We know what we’re going to get from Connor every night," Jets coach Rick Bowness said. "He’s so good. He’s an elite goaltender, without a doubt."

Sean Monahan hasn't needed much time to become a believer in Hellebuyck. Acquired by Winnipeg in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 2, the center has been impressed by what he has seen of his goalie so far.

"He's dialed in every day," Monahan said. "He makes saves when we need them. He steps up in a big way. He's a huge part of this team."

Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey believes his goalie's importance goes further than the Vezina.

"[Hellebuyck] is having a Hart Trophy type of season," Morrissey said.

The last goalie to win the Hart Trophy as NHL most valuable player was Carey Price in 2015. With Hellebuyck's leading role in Winnipeg's push to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, an MVP vote would be warranted.

Jets assistant coach Scott Arniel has been around several good goalies during his coaching career, including six seasons watching Henrik Lundqvist as an assistant with the New York Rangers (2013-18) and two seasons with Braden Holtby as an assistant with the Washington Capitals (2018-20). Hellebuyck fits in their category, Arniel said.

"We had 'Hank' there in New York when we had a couple runs there, especially the first two years," Arniel told the "NHL @TheRink" podcast. "I saw some great goaltending then. And certainly this guy has been fantastic as well."

Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis): Connor Hellebuyck, Jets, 67 points (11 first-place votes); Thatcher Demko, Canucks, 48 (2 first-place votes); Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida Panthers, 46 (1 first-place vote); Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins, 15; Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames, 7; Stuart Skinner, Edmonton Oilers, 7; Joey Daccord, Seattle Kraken, 5; Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers, 5; Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues, 3; Alexandar Georgiev, Colorado Avalanche, 3; Adin Hill, Vegas Golden Knights, 2; Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators, 2 independent correspondent Darrin Bauming contributed to this report

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