The NHL’s 2022 Vezina Trophy finalists were recently announced and among the top-3 vote earners, the Calgary Flames’ very own Jacob Markstrom got the nod alongside Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers and Juuse Saros of the Nashville Predators.
Each goaltender was a workhorse for their respective teams, with Saros starting a whopping 67 games, with Markstrom following with 63 and Shesterkin with 52. They all put up impressive numbers and undoubtedly impressed the 32 NHL general managers that voted on the award.
What exactly did Markstrom do and how did he perform en route to earning the honours? Has he done enough to possibly claim the trophy and be the first Flame to do so since Miikka Kiprusoff won it back in 2005–06? Let’s take a look at his numbers from the 2021–22 regular season.
Markstrom’s traditional stats shone
By and large, looking at his career stats page, Markstrom had a season for the ages. Over his 63 starts, his record was a shining 37–15–9. Only Andrei Vasilevskiy, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Juuse Saros recorded more wins with 39, 39, and 38, respectively.
His .922 save percentage is also a career-best—not counting his mark of 0.923 back in 2011–12 over seven games with the Florida Panthers. Similarly, his goals against average of 2.22 is another career-best that blows other years right out of the water. His second best mark in the GAA column is 2.63, recorded back in 2016–17 over 26 appearances with the Vancouver Canucks. In other words, this was his best year as a starting goaltender.
Over the course of the season, he played 3,695:50, the most in his career. He made 1,617 saves and allowed 137 goals. And the most outstanding stat of them all, he led the NHL with nine shutouts—two more than second place Ilya Sorokin. That translates to one shutout for every seven starts for a ridiculous shutout rate. Markstrom’s shutout number alone probably carried a lot of weight among GMs placing their votes.
To round it all out with stats that do not impact Vezina voting whatsoever, Markstrom also recorded three assists, behind just Frederik Andersen‘s four. Among even lesser-tracked stats, Markstrom eclipsed the 10,000 career shots against mark, reaching a total of 10,971 in 2021–22. The cherry on top is that in his last start of the regular season, he made 22 saves to bring his career saves total to 10,003.
Top analytics performances from Markstrom
Looking at advanced stats courtesy of Evolving-Hockey.com, we can take a look at exactly what it was about Markstrom’s performance that earned him the nomination.
Goals saved above expected
With score- and venue-adjusted stats at all situations, Markstrom was subject to 152.59 expected goals against, but gave up 136.53, which clocks him in at 16.06 goals saved above expected (GSAx). That number is good for fifth in the league, albeit he’s well behind league leader Shesterkin’s 37.24.
Note that applying score and venue adjustments to stats will make total goals against a value that’s not round, since the adjustments attempt to equalise shot quality across different game states and venues.
The contrast in numbers between the top goaltenders don’t take away from Markstrom individual performance. Instead it shows just how godly Shesterkin was for the Rangers. Markstrom played in front of a competent team on defence; whereas Shesterkin was the only competent Ranger in preventing goals.
In any case, if a goaltender finishes a season with a large GSAx value, it shows they were integral to their team and likely earned their team more wins than not.
Looking at score- and venue-adjusted 5v5 stats only, Markstrom finished the season saving 12.11 goals above expected, where he ceded 99.56 goals to an expected 111.67.
Visualising Markstrom’s saving
Turning to HockeyViz.com to assess his on-ice saving, it’s clear that he has been a brick wall in high-danger areas. For the visualisation below, the blue areas indicate that a shot taken from that location is less likely to be a goal against Markstrom compared to a league-average goalie (and likewise red means it’s more likely to go in on Markstrom). Simply, the more blue and the darker the blue, the better.
By all measures, this chart shows that Markstrom has had an excellent year. But a spoiler alert, Shesterkin’s saving was even better. Compared to the other Vezina finalist in Saros as well, Shesterkin was otherworldly.
Odds of Markstrom winning the Vezina
At the end of the day, earning the nomination in a stacked year among top goaltenders is a huge accomplishment for Markstrom. However, it’s a guarantee that being named a finalist is currently moot to Markstrom and his team, as the Flames are solely focused on the playoffs.
Now whether Markstrom wins it or not is yet to be determined. But to be perfectly honest, by traditional stats and advanced metrics, it should go to Shesterkin. The Rangers’ goaltender put up better numbers in front of a much worse defence. Not to discount Markstrom’s year, but he had better players in front of him. That’s due credit to the Flames and their systems more than anything though.
Markstrom can look back at 2021–22 and be proud that he was one of the best goaltenders in the NHL.
Do you think Markstrom can earn the Vezina at the NHL Awards or do you think he’s a deserved runner-up? Let us know in the comments or at @wincolumnCGY.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire