At just 26-years-old, Saros has picked up where Rinne left off in seamless fashion, and dare I say even has the chance to surpass Rinne’s legacy when it’s all said and done. He’s that talented, but of course we can’t make that proclamation now.
The point is, Saros has absolutely lived up to the pressure so far of taking over for a legendary goaltender for a franchise that has historically succeeded off of stellar goaltending and strong defensive play.
As the Nashville Predators continue to evolve and be one of the biggest surprise teams in the NHL, there’s something to be said about making the case for Saros as the top Vezina Trophy candidate as we’re passing the midway point of 2021-22.
Saros is carrying the Nashville Predators yet again
This is a major reason for why Saros has to at the very least be in everyone’s top-three for the Vezina Trophy if the vote was held today. He’s the workhorse for a team that lacks a plethora of goal scoring talent, and takes the most penalties in the NHL. Not a great combination for a goaltender to face.
Saros leads the league in total saves by over 100 saves to the second place goaltender, which is John Gibson for the Ducks. Furthermore, Saros has the most starts (37) and second-most wins (23).
What’s really impressive is despite the heavy usage that Saros is having to work through for the Predators, he’s still managing to stay top-five in save percentage (.927), and his GAA is really the only category where he’s not near the top (2.36).
As just mentioned, Saros is dealing with the oppossing team’s power play more so than any other goaltender which has negatively affected his GAA a bit. Luckily, the Nashville Predators have shown improvement in their penalty killing from past seasons, and Saros is a reason why with a .897 save percentage against the other team’s power play. Not too shabby.
These numbers, among others, combined with his heavy usage rate really sets him apart from almost every other goaltender. However, there are a couple other candidates who make a strong case to get it over Saros if the trends continue.
Another impressive stat from Saros is in games where he faces 40-plus saves, he’s compiled a record of 5-0-2. The Predators have come away with 12 out of a possible 14 points in the standings in games where they probably had no business winning if they didn’t have Saros in net.
Saros’ Vezina competition
The one goaltender that I can understand being ahead of Saros is Igor Shesterkin. His numbers are as elite as you can ask for in today’s NHL. His GAA his barely above two goals per game, and he’s playing for a New York Rangers team that’s not known for their defensive play.
Shesterkin has just 27 starts, ten less than Saros, and I do think that matters. Shesterkin’s case for the Vezina will only get stronger as he adds more starts and continues to hold onto these elite numbers he’s putting out.
If the vote was held today, Shesterkin would likely win it and I’d be fine with it. However, Saros has a strong arguement as well with having ten more starts and being relied on more heavily through the midway point.
You’ve got Frederik Andersen for the Hurricanes who also shouldn’t be overlooked in this debate. His save percentage is slightly above Saros’, but it’s splitting hairs with how close they are. Andersen’s GAA really stands out as he’s tops in the NHL among goaltenders with more than 20 starts.
Saros, Shesterkin and Andersen should be your top-three if the vote was held today, but I’m still going Saros in my book as the top candidate with how many more starts he’s gotten for a team that needs him to play at this level badly to remain where they’re at in the standings.
This will be a fun race to follow in the second half of the season. It’s highly probable that Saros will eventually win a Vezina Trophy if it’s not this season. There’s some stiff competition and arguments to be made for all three that were just mentioned.
Give me Saros and Shesterkin in what should be an interesting race down the stretch.