Wild fans certainly know how good Nik Backstrom is, his having saved the team's collective bacon what seems like dozens of times this season being evidence alone. But is the league starting to take notice as well?
Kipper's line: appearing in 74 games, amassing a 45-22-5 (60.81%) record, a 2.81 GAA, a 0.904 SPCT and 4 shutouts.
Nabby's line: 59 GP, 40-10-8 (67.79%) record, a 2.43 GAA, a 0.911 SPCT and 6 shutouts.
Backs' line: 69 GP, 35-24-8 (50.72%) record, a 2.33 GAA, a 0.923 SPCT and 8 shutouts.
Those are three good goalies having very good years. You could make the case that each of them is his team's MVP as well, based on either how little-used their backups are or how they have performed relative to their backups.
You have to like the fact that Backstrom has the lowest GAA and highest SPCT in the group, even though GAA is more of a team stat. He does have the worst winning-percentage in the group which will hurt him. Does his group-best number of shutouts help off-set that in the voting? We'll see. But, in any event, these are three pretty evenly matched keepers.
In an effort to help clarify the picture, let's take a look at some secondary statistics.
Team goals for/game rankings (season-to-date):
San Jose 7th (3.09)
Calgary 8th (3.08)
Minnesota 25th (2.50)
Team goals against/game rankings (season-to-date):
Minnesota 2nd (2.38)
San Jose 3rd (2.39)
Calgary 23rd (3.00)
Team shots against/game rankings (season-to-date):
San Jose 1st (27.3)
Calgary 16th (29.6)
Minnesota 21st (30.7)
First, how freakin' good is San Jose? Yikes! They score a lot, don't get scored on very often and play great defense. They have also tasted playoff defeat recently - which is a pretty good leading indicator of future playoff success.
But, all that extra goal support that Nabby and Kipper get over Backs is a plus for Backs in the Vezina consideration. The bottom line is that Backs has a smaller margin for error than the other two guys.
Another strike against Kipper has to be the relatively low goals against/game ranking for the Flames, certainly relative to the Wild and Sharks.
I was frankly surprised to see the Wild giving up so many shots. I was prepared to make the point that, "since the Wild allow so few shots, Backstrom's SPCT should be the highest of the three." But the Wild allows the *most* shots of the three teams, which makes Backs' best-in-group SPCT even more compelling (and also partially debunks the "he's just a product of the system he plays in" myth.)
It would certainly appear that you could make a strong case for Nik Backstrom winning the Vezina Trophy this year - to go along with his Jennings Trophy a couple years ago.