Tim Thomas is currently on pace for save percentage history. Back when Dominik Hasek was winning scores of Vezina and Hart Trophies, he was posting astronomical totals in this department. In 1992-93, Hasek’s decrepit .896 SP in 28 games was a cause for concern, until it jumped by 34 points a year later. While .920 seems to be the cutoff mark for a really good save percentage, Hasek hit .930 for the first time and would go on to do it on four more occasions.
After winning back-to-back Hart Trophies in 1997 and 1998, Hasek set a record with a .937 SP in 1999, but didn’t take home the league MVP. While his 1997-98 season was formidable, the ’98-99 campaign was his best; it just doesn’t appear that way on his mantle.
Which brings us to Thomas. Sitting 10 points clear of Nashville’s Pekka Rinne in save percentage at .939, the Bruins netminder may very well eclipse Hasek’s incredible record. But which is more impressive?
Without looking, the obvious line of thinking would side with Thomas, given how he’s playing in the post-lockout NHL where offense is the name of the game. But there are an unusual amount of goaltenders with save percentages north of .920 this season.
Consider that in ’97-98 there were three goalies with at least a .920 save percentage and 50 games played – in ’98-99 there were five. In both of those years, Hasek was the only netminder to go higher than .930 and he did it on a team where he was clearly the only star. He was also 10 and 11 points clear of second place in those two years – Thomas was seven clear of Vokoun in 2009.
At the present time, as many as 10 netminders have the chance to hit the .920 mark with at least 50 games played this season, which would be the most ever. While no one else is at .930 yet, both Pekka Rinne (.929) and Roberto Luongo (.925) are trending up.
So which save percentage performance was the best? It’s impossible to directly compare two players from different eras, which is exactly what Hasek and Thomas are. So perhaps the best way to measure is to compare the final totals of the competition. We shall see.
GAME OF THE MONTH: Luongo and the Canucks faced Thomas’ Bruins, Carey Price’s Canadiens and Rinne’s Predators recently. Luongo faced fewer shots than his Vezina counterparts in all the games, but lost each one as well. Rinne came through the strongest with a 29-save shutout.
RISING: Luongo has always been at the center of attention, whether as an Islanders draft pick, all-star goalie stuck in Florida purgatory or as captain of a Canucks team that failed to live up to expectations. This year, though, he’s somehow flying under the radar.
FALLING: Semyon Varlamov has been sidelined by a knee injury, but wasn’t playing particularly well before going on the shelf. All the injury did was eliminate him from any peripheral Vezina debate.
MAKING THE CASE
Lost back-to-back regulation games for the first time this season in mid-February. Still the clear-cut Vezina favorite.
Has faced the second-most shots against this season, yet he’s still among the leaders in all major categories.
Shutout mark isn’t keeping up with other contenders, but Luongo is quietly having the best season of his career.
Second in SP and GAA, Rinne is hurt by his lack of wins, but would the Preds be in the playoff hunt without him?
Always a bridesmaid, never a bride – three-time Vezina finalist having one of his best seasons and is the Rangers’ lifeblood.
The Canes allow the most shots against in the league, but Ward is keeping them alive in the East. Lack of shutouts is all that hurts his case.
For the longest time the Swiss stopper was keeping the Ducks alive and while his numbers are still stellar, dizzy spells have been keeping him off the ice.
Remember when the Penguins goalie was 1-6 with an .853 SP and 3.54 GAA in November as Brent Johnson was earning playing time? Me neither.
Doesn’t face as many shots as the others on this list and his current cool spell has to raise questions about his endurance after he faded at the tail end of 2009-10.
Grabbed the No. 1 job midway through the season, which will hurt his Vezina cause, but Crawford has helped vault Chicago up the standings and is 10-1-1 in past 12 games.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: A thumb injury slowed Niklas Backstrom, who was bumped off this month’s list because of a slow spell and stiff competition. He has been having a great season and would have made the top 10 two weeks ago. Honorable mentions: Miikka Kiprusoff, Antti Niemi, Jimmy Howard, Tomas Vokoun.
THN Puck Panel – Tim Thomas headed for second Vezina Trophy
EDITOR: Graeme Skinner | PRODUCER: Ted Cooper
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