The Pittsburgh Penguins are set to kick off their three game road trip against the New Jersey Devils this evening.
Classically speaking games against the Devils are not the most entertaining ones on the schedule. One of the perks about playing the Devils the past season and a half was having Jaromir Jagr involved. This is no longer the case as he has been since traded to the Florida Panthers.
Last year the Devils were one of the best possession teams in all of hockey. They missed the playoffs but they were considered an outlier. They ranked sixth overall in Score-Adjusted Fenwick with 53.4%. However, their insistence on playing the below average Martin Brodeur tanked their playoff hope. They ranked 25th overall in EVSV% at .914.
This year is the complete opposite. New Jersey has been a bad possession team overall this year but they are getting terrific goaltending. They are only 26th overall in Score-Adjusted Fenwick at 46.3% but Cory Schneider has been playing lights out and has a .935 EVSV%.
The Penguins should be able to control the pace of play tonight, but beating Cory Schneider will be no easy task. One could argue that Schneider deserves a Vezina nomination as much as any goalie not named Carey Price.
And that brings me to Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury is having a quality season between the pipes for the Penguins this year. He has been showered with praise from many outlets that cover the sport. He leads the NHL with nine shutouts and some feel he is Pittsburgh’s team MVP.
When we look at the numbers this is one of Fleury’s better regular season campaigns:
But is he worthy of being in the discussion for the Vezina Trophy?
In an effort to try and sort out who the best candidates are for the Vezina Trophy I looked at Adjusted Save Percentage. Adjusted Save Percentage as defined by War On Ice is as follows:
AdjustedSvPct: Adjusted save percentage; this adjusts for the fact that some teams give up more high-quality shots, while others give up more low-quality shots. This is the weighted-average of SvPctHigh, SvPctMed, and SvPctLow, where the weights correspond to the league-wide percentage of shots from each of those areas. In other words, this is a goalies save percentage if they faced a league average proportion of shots from each of the three shooting zones (high, medium, and low probability of success).
For those people that want to try and take shot quality into consideration this is a metric that tries to accomplish that.
Here is how some of the Vezina candidates have shaped up this year at even strength.
*Chart uses a 20 game moving average*
As you can see when compared to the other goaltenders in the Vezina discussion Fleury is on the lower end.
In fairness Marc-Andre Fleury has been one of the better goalies over the past few years when his team is shorthanded so I also looked at the Adjusted Save Percentage for the same goaltenders while their teams were shorthanded.
*Chart uses a 20 game moving average*
He fares better here but probably not enough to offset his even strength play when compared to some of the other candidates.
So while Marc-Andre Fleury is having a quality year it is probably fair to throw some cold water on the Vezina nomination talk for now unless he really goes on a tear.
The good news for the Penguins is that they don’t need a Vezina nominated goalie to be successful. They just need Fleury to continue to play how he has so far this year.
I noticed the following tweet yesterday and it make me think about two players in the Penguins system that this could also apply to:
I assume the same thing could be applied to Oskar Sundqvist and Kasperi Kapanen. Neither player is a legit option for NHL action this year in my opinion but playing for WB/S might not be out of the equation.
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