Nashville Predators: Juuse Saros and the Vezina Trophy Conversation

If you would’ve asked me two months ago if a Nashville Predators player would be in the conversation for any award race I would’ve said you were wishful thinking, and yet here we are with just a few more regular season games left.

Juuse Saros, much like last season, has went on an impressive surge that has propelled the Nashville Predators into a playoff spot. You might remember he was doing the same thing in March 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic paused the season.

There’s no disputing that Saros has been one of the NHL’s top goaltenders since he returned from injury on March 18 when he earned a win over the Florida Panthers by giving up just one goal on 41 shots faced.

Does Juuse Saros have a case?

Saros has now been brought up in some Vezina Trophy race conversations, and deservedly so. He’s been a major force for the Predators’ turnaround that has them in the fourth spot in the division after at one point looking like they’d be contending with the Detroit Red Wings for the division cellar.

One major factor that Saros has working in his favor is he doesn’t have nearly the amount of talent playing in front of him as the other Vezina Trophy candidates have, but how much does that go into the voting is the question.

Considering all of the youth and inexperience that’s played in front of Saros, there’s something to be said about how he’s continued to stay strong and bail the team out on several occasions.

With that being said, I can’t be a homer here and say Saros should get the Vezina Trophy, mainly because he missed several games in the middle of the season while some other Vezina Trophy candidates racked up more starts.

The main goaltenders who are slotted ahead of Saros is Andrei Vasilevskiy and Marc-Andre Fleury, but you’ll also see mentioned of Connor Hellebuyck and Philipp Grubauer.

I’m going to go ahead and take Hellebuyck out of this debate and put Saros ahead of him. Hellebuyck has stumbled a bit down the stretch giving up three or more goals in four of his last five outings and seeing his save percentage slump  down to .917, which isn’t bad but isn’t Vezina Trophy worthy, either.

I just have a hard time putting any goaltender ahead of Vasilevskiy or Fleury at this point. It’s a two-man race between those two, and it’ll be interesting to see who they go with. Both have made enticing cases and are starting for Stanley Cup contending teams.

Saros has confirmed he’s the guy for the Nashville Predators in 2021 and beyond

As for Saros, it’s incredible in itself how he’s turned his season around and carried the Predators to this position in the playoff race. He’s confirmed that he’s the main guy in net for the foreseeable future in Nashville.

There was some worry that Saros maybe wasn’t the franchise goaltender for the Predators after the way his season initially started. Rinne was having to step in and take many more starts than what was expected coming in.

Saros has lifted his save percentage on the season to .926 and lowered his GAA to 2.27. In his last 10 starts he’s given up two goals or fewer eight times. That kind of consistency in net will give any team a chance to win regardless of injuries and struggles on the power play, which are well-noted for the Predators.

It leaves me wondering where Saros would be in the Vezina Trophy race had he played over those two weeks he missed. The team was in disarray during that time, and to Pekka Rinne‘s credit he stepped in and held things in check until Saros was able to return.

Saros most likely won’t get the Vezina Trophy this season, but becoming a nominee would be cool to see. I also have restored confidence that a Vezina Trophy is in his bright future and that the Predators seem to be set in net as they head into what will be a tricky offseason.

If Saros can finish off this season strong and push the Predators into the playoffs, I think he’ll be very deserving of at least being a Vezina Trophy finalist before either Vasilevskiy or Fleury will ultimately take home the hardware.