So I don’t think Braden Holtby is going to win the Vezina for the league’s best goalie. He probably won’t join Brodeur and Hasek and Roy in the pantheon of back-to-back winners, which is a bummer, but Sergei Bobrovsky has had an excellent season making the Columbus Blue Jackets look better than mediocre, which is what they are. Bob deserves it.
That’s okay. We will just find other things to appreciate about Holtby — like his inhuman consistency.
First, the case for Bob over Braden. I’ll start by saying it’s close. They’ve had similar workloads.
Bobrovsky has been slightly better during 5-on-5 but has really distinguished himself with his 90.5 save percentage during the penalty kill, when Columbus has been pretty bad (bottom five in expected goals against). Meanwhile, Holtby has struggled while a man down, getting a weak 84.0 behind the league’s highest opponent shot rate during the PK.
That’s been the main discriminator and the reason why Bob is the Vezina favorite whether you go by basic numbers like save percentage and wins or by quality-based metrics, like DTMAboutHeart’s expected save percentage and expected goals saved.
So, again, I’m fine with it. Some weak penalty killing has quashed Holtby’s claim, and that’s okay. But in breaking down Holtby’s performance by game state, I was blown away by something.
Holtby had a 93.15 save percentage during 5-on-5 in his first season, and he’s stuck right around there ever since. It’s nuts how stable he is.
|Season||Save percentage||Shots faced|
With a low of 92.7 and a high of 93.5 (this season, woo), Holtby has been astonishingly consistent.
Goalies just don’t do that. They’re a streaky bunch, but see how Holtby (in red) compares to goalies who faced at least 500 5-on-5 shots per season.
Everyone else is up and down, but Holtby’s reliable as hell. The only player with a smaller standard deviation in his 5-on-5 save percentage is Calgary’s Karri Ramo (0.1). Holtby is 0.2 but has the added virtue of being good as well as consistent. You have to put 15 shots on Holtby before he’ll give you a goal. Only Carey Price has done better over the whole range, and I’m not sure anyone would bat an eye over the 6 extra goals Holtby gives up every 10,000 shots.
When Holtby won the Vezina in 2015-16, team defense and goal support allowed him to rack up a ton of wins. He hasn’t had those advantages this season and his PK work leaves a bit to be desired, but during even strength Braden Holtby is still the best bet in the National Hockey League.
Headline photo: Amanda Bowen/RMNB
P.S. Consistency is not the same thing as goodness. Holtby’s consistency is good because he is consistently good. If he were good at being consistently bad, that would not be good.
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