Ever since Ryan Miller's magnificent performance in the Olympics, and perhaps a few weeks before, many hockey experts have been tripping over themselves to declare Miller the winner of this year's Vezina Trophy. If feel good stories counted on equal footing with stats, then that may be true. However, a closer look at the situation reveals that this year may be one of the hardest seasons in recent memory for the GMs to select a winner. No doubt, Miller is the front runner for the prize, but there are several over contenders worthy of serious consideration.
When it comes to rating goaltenders, there are four major stats to consider: Wins, GAA, Save % and shutouts. Taking a look at the top 5 Vezina candidates in these categories only adds confusion.
GAA - This is perhaps the most important stats, and this is where Miller shines with a 2.23. That puts him slightly ahead of Kiprusoff at 2.27, and significantly better than Nabokov at 2.47.
Wins - As always, Brodeur is the leader here. His 40 win seasons are more predictable than the Panthers missing the playoffs. Miller sits 3 wins behind Brodeur at this point. Kiprusoff sits way back at 35.
Shutouts - The crown jewel for the goaltender is the shutout. This is the one stat that Miller is most behind on. He has a respectable 5 on the year, but can't catch the 8 from Bryzgalov and Brodeur.
Save % - Once again, Miller takes the lead in this stat. His .928 dwarfs Brodeur's .915.
So who is the odds on favorite with a week left to play? Time to play the elimination game.
Kiprusoff will most likely be the first to go. It's almost unheard of to give a major award to a player on a non-playoff team, and Calgary is in serious danger of missing the show. Besides, his 4 shutouts and 35 wins place him at the bottom of the stack.
Nabokov will most likely miss the cut as well, based on some serious stretches of inconsistent play. His wins and save percent keep him in the running, but his GAA doesn't match up well, and his 3 shutouts shut him out.
That leaves us with three worthy finalists: Brodeur, Bryzgalov, and Miller.
The reality is that Vezina voting is often tilted toward sentiment and reputation. That kind of leaves Bryzgalov on the outside. Despite the fact that he's been one of the top stoppers in the game since leaving Anaheim for the desert, he just hasn't gotten the press that Miller and Brodeur enjoy.
So, is it a done deal, or is there still time for Brodeur to hold off Miller for one more season, and add another trophy to his impressive case? With 4 games to go, it seems unlikely, but possible. He has matchups with Atlanta, Florida, and the Islanders, which means a shutout or two isn't too much to expect. If he catches fire and finishes with 9 or 10 shutouts to Miller's 5, it may be enough to give him the nod. Otherwise, it seems, the experts have been right all along. It appears that Miller's Time has arrived.
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