A straightforward question: Who was the best goaltender this season? Both of the Stanley Cup Final goaltenders were able to prove their ability in the postseason as both Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo are up for the award. The darkhorse, Pekka Rinne, had a spectacular regular season for the Nashville Predators and helped them get to the second round for the first time in franchise history. But this is a regular season award—so again, who was the best goaltender this season? PHT breaks down the case for each finalist.
Joe Yerdon’s case for Roberto Luongo:
Well this is awkward. Roberto Luongo’s brilliant regular season is clearly going to be overshadowed by his ultimate failure in the Stanley Cup finals. Luckily for him, the Vezina has everything to do with the regular season and nothing to do with the ups and downs of the playoffs.
Luongo was tops in wins, second in goals against average, and third in save percentage in the NHL. If you can ignore that Luongo was behind one or both of the other finalists in this category and put way more value into wins than anything else, he’s just the guy you’re looking for to win the hardware. Luongo’s regular season was great and the Canucks wouldn’t have won the President’s Trophy without his efforts and his outstanding play in goal. The fact that he and Cory Schneider won the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed speaks volumes for how they did and giving up the fewest goals is the important part of a goalie’s job, right? Yeah… That’s about all I’ve got on this one, we know how the voters will go on this one.
James O’Brien’s case for Pekka Rinne:
No doubt about it, I’ve fawned over Thomas to an almost embarrassing degree (especially in the last month). While I’ve said that Thomas put together a historical combined playoffs and regular season run, his lesser known colleague in Nashville was insanely close behind him during the regular season.
Rinne earned an outstanding .930 save percentage, just a few strides behind Thomas’ record-breaking .938 and generally fell just a slight bit behind the two other candidates in some of the sexiest goalie categories.
Yet Thomas and Luongo had the luxury of having more trusted backups to give them a breather. Rinne’s greater workload forced him to make 1,771 saves to 1,699 for Thomas and 1,627 for Luongo. He played in 64 games to 57 for Thomas and 60 for Bobby Lou. If trophy voters consider how crucial a goalie was to his team – rather than which goalie put up the most amazing numbers – then Rinne will have a legitimate shot at winning.
If nothing else, he probably deserves to at least put up a fight in the voting, even if Thomas is the obvious frontrunner.
Matt Reitz’s case for Tim Thomas:
What more can we say about Tim Thomas? The Conn Smyth winner just had one of the best postseasons by a goaltender in the history of hockey. But this is only a regular season award—so the postseason has no bearing on the proceedings. That’s a good thing for Roberto Luongo.
Over the last stretch of the regular season, he actually had a bit of a “slump” by his lofty standards. For Thomas it’s a slump simply because the rest of the season was filled with “oh my goodness those are Hasek-type numbers” good. He led the league with an even 2.00 goals against average and an even more impressive .938 save percentage. As amazing as the statistics were this season, he passed the eyeball test as the most spectacular goaltender this season. But hey, throw in his 35-11-9 record and he pretty much did it all.
People can make cases for other goaltenders, but at some point it’s arguing the obvious. Throw around certain particular stats and maybe one of the other finalists can measure up in a single category. But when it comes right down to it, there’s just no way anyone can deny that he was the best goaltender in the league this year.