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Braden Holtby: Vezina or Vezinope

A look at the Caps’ netminders bid for a second consecutive Vezina win.

NHL: New York Rangers at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

After he tied Martin Brodeur’s single-season record with 48 wins in 2015-16, Braden Holtby was awarded the Vezina Trophy, awarded by the NHL’s 30 GMs to the League’s best goaltender.

Fast forward a year and Holtby is a lock to at least be nominated for the trophy again in 2016-17, finishing the campaign tied for the League-lead in wins (42) and leading outright in shutouts (9).

Let’s take a look at how Holtby’s performance has looked this year compared to his Vezina-securing run.

Not much that we don’t already know here. Holtby dropped off in wins largely due to a generally less demanding workload, and yet still managed to triple his shutout output (and tie his career high in that department).

Moving onto the top-level performance metrics...

Braden Holtby’s overall save percentage did tick up a bit this year, despite less success on the penalty kill, and was likely driven by his increased percentage at five on five, which is obviously driving the bulk of the shot volume over the course of the year. Holtby’s goals-against average, a time-honored measurement of goaltender efficiency, also improved from a 2.20 in 2015-16, which was good enough for fifth in the NHL, to a 2.06, slotting him second in the League.

But Holtby isn’t competing against himself for the Vezina. He’ll likely be going head to head with Columbus Bluejackets’ netminder Sergei Bobrovsky for the big prize, with Devan Dubnyk tossed in as the third longshot nominee.

Holtby is clubhouse leader in both wins and shutouts among his Vezina-hopeful peers. This isn’t necessarily a conventional method of measuring performance, but by selecting Holtby as last year’s winner, the GMs showed us that wins are a strong driver of their opinions... that said, Holtby didn’t tie any long-standing League records in that category this year, so it probably demands less overall acknowledgment.

Here’s how Holtby stands up against the field in some other areas.

Holtby and Bobrovsky are head and shoulders above Dubnyk in GAA (and Holtby took home a William M. Jennings Trophy this year for the goaltender who allowed the fewest goals — fun fact: this used to be how the Vezina was awarded), but Bob ekes out the other two when using save percentage as a measuring stick. Let’s take a quick look at the type of saves each goaltender is making to comprise those percentages.

We see that Braden Holtby exceeds the performance of his peers on both low and medium danger shots — which is to say he allowed softies at a lower rate. Bobrovsky, however, rose well above both Holtby and Dubnyk on shots judged to be of the high-danger variety.

It’s unlikely the GMs drill down to this level when making their determination. The argument for Sergei Bobrovsky is that he paced the League in both save percentage and goals-against average, and was perhaps Columbus’ most valuable player as they made a bid for the Metropolitan division title. But last year Braden Holtby won the trophy with the 8th best save percentage and fifth best GAA in the League.

Now he’s kept his top spot in the wins column, gained the top spot in the shutout column, and improved his ranking in both GAA and save percentage. It won’t be an easy decision for the League brass, and Sergei Bobrovsky certainly has made a strong claim for this year’s Vezina, but there’s no doubt Holtby’s given the GMs plenty to chew on.