As the dust settles from Carey Price’s sparkling 2014-2015 season, punctuated by a historic awards night for the Canadiens goalie, the summer doldrums force us writers to look for stories.
So, why not take the unpopular route and try and examine why the Canadiens’ stud netminder will most likely not be able to replicate the lofty figures he put up last year.
Last season, Price’s stat line of 44-16-6 with a 1.96 GAA and .933 SV%, measures up to some of the best stats NHL goaltenders have ever put up. Internal club records alone are pretty high reaches, but to be near the best of the best ever, those are special numbers.
That being said, the other foot may be coming down.
Taking a small sample size of NHL goaltenders – beginning after the 2004-2005 NHL lockout – who have won the Vezina trophy, all of their numbers dropped following their respective award wins.
Price’s individual stats are the best, if not near best, of the eight goaltenders that won the trophy in those 10 years. His 44 wins are tied for second with Martin Brodeur, his GAA is best of the bunch (slightly edging out Henrik Lundqvist) and his save percentage is tied for second best with Tim Thomas, who also owns the best ever save percentage at .938.
Each goaltender, without fail, has followed up his Vezina-winning campaign with lower numbers. Now, that’s not to say they imploded the season afterwards – Brodeur won a second straight Vezina in 2007-2008 with nearly identical numbers, they were just slightly lower.
While some goaltenders were somewhat surprising winners – Miikka Kiprusoff immediately following the lockout, Sergei Bobrovsky and Tuukka Rask – they didn’t see the highest drop-offs year-on-year.
Those belonged to Thomas and Ryan Miller, who suffered a concussion during that season, respectively, with Thomas having the dubious distinction of having the two worst drops of the eight netminders.
Following his Vezina victory, it was nothing short of horrific. He won less than half the games he won the previous season, saw significant drops in both GAA and SV%, and eventually lost the starting job to Rask. Offseason hip surgery seemed to be the cure as he bounced back with a Stanley Cup and Vezina campaign, posting the best save SV% of all-time.
His numbers dropped off again the following season and there lies the caveat.
After what are usually career seasons for most goaltenders, a drop off in numbers should be somewhat expected. It seems to be more how they mitigate the drop, and that obviously extends beyond just the netminders’ grasp.
Aside from Miller and Thomas, the rest of the bunch saw an additional goal roughly every three, four or five games added on, with none losing more than 10 points on their SV%.
Ultimately, expect the very likely possibility that Price’s numbers won’t be as good as last season, but realistically, is anyone going to complain if he puts up a 2.20 GAA and .926 SV% stat line this upcoming season?
Probably some, but not many.