Who deserves the Vezina, Tuukka Rask or Connor Hellebuyck?
The 2020 Vezina Trophy voting could be closer than we've seen in a long time, but who truly deserves the trophy, and why?
The 2020 Vezina voting might just be closer and more interesting than most years. The whole trophy rests on what the GM's voting find most valuable, because Rask and Hellebuyck's cases are just so different.
Tuukka Rask and Connor Hellebuyck both had excellent seasons, but in very different ways. Rask statistically, was stellar. He led the league with a 2.12 GAA, and was just .01 out of first place with a .929 SV%. If you set save percentage to just starters, then he leads both categories. Hellebuyck's numbers don't amaze, but his shear volume and importance to the Winnipeg Jets made him extremely valuable.
Both of their stats can be seen below:
As you can clearly see, Hellebuyck played seventeen more games than Rask. Hellebuyck tied Carey Price for the most games played, while Rask finished 19th. The primary reason for that would be that Jaroslav Halak of the Bruins is one of the best backup goalies in the league, and Boston has been trying to keep Rask rested. Winnipeg's backup Laurent Brossoit is not, one of the reasons Winnipeg relied so heavily on Hellebuyck.
Despite some star players on the Jets, Hellebuyck was no doubt their MVP. He is second behind only Rask in goals saved above average, and has done everything he has despite playing behind a suddenly very poor defense. The Jets gave up the most high danger opportunities in the league, yet gave up the tenth fewest goals per game. That shows just how good Hellebuyck was.
His sheer volume of games, and shots, and dangerous shots is astounding, yet he managed, and thrived through it all.
What I don't agree with though is how Rask is punished in terms of Vezina consideration because he plays for a good team. Yes, Rask does have a good defense in front of him, but the primary reason the Bruins are a great defensive team in Rask. Don't forget that the Bruins have had a few injuries at defense. They have had guys like Jeremy Lauzon, Connor Clifton, and John Moore play significant time. My point is that yes, this is a good defense, but it's not like they are invincible.
Rask doesn't just lead in the conventional stats either. Thehockeywriters.com wrote,
"The Bruins’ starter leads the league in goals saved above average (22.51), a measurement that compares a goalie’s SV% and shots faced vs. the league average SV% on the same number of shots faced. Rask also sits third among qualified goaltenders in quality start percentage, and first among goalies with at least 35 games played. Lastly, his .939 even-strength SV% led the league by a significant margin."
In addition, of Rask's 41 games started, he lost just eight in regulation. That is unreal.
If there were ever going to be a tie for the Vezina this would be the year, because both were so excellent, yet almost incomparable to each other. The real question here is how much is volume worth in Vezina Trophy consideration. Surely it means something, but does it overcome inferior statistics? Personally, I lean towards no.
I think it's pretty safe to say that while Hellebuyck might have been the most valuable goaltender to his team, but Rask was the best one. He was absolutely shut-down all year long, and is no doubt a very large part of the Bruins success. The Vezina is given to the goaltender who is "adjudged to be the best at this position". While I do think it is very likely that Hellebuyck wins the award, there is no doubt in my mind that Rask deserves it.