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Frederik Andersen Has Emerged as a Vezina Trophy Front-Runner

Aaron Gray

by Aaron Gray in NHL Hockey

Dec 4, 2018 · 3:32 PM PST

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen
Frederik Andersen has been heroic this season, masking the deficiencies of the Leafs' young defence. Photo by David King (Wikimedia Commons).
  • Frederik Andersen leads the NHL in wins and is third in save percentage 
  • Andersen is a legitimate contender for the award but faces strong challengers in Rinne, Bobrovsky, Gibson, and others
  • Will he be able to succeed in spite of Toronto’s lackluster defense?

As we embark on the second quarter of the NHL season, oddsmakers have drastically shifted their odds on the winner of the 2019 Vezina Trophy, awarded at the conclusion of the season to the NHL’s top goaltender.

Perennial candidates Sergei Bobrovsky, Pekka Rinne, and Andrei Vasilevskiy all remain in the conversation for the Trophy, but the goaltender who’s seen his odds shorten the most dramatically is the one who plays in the center of the hockey universe: Frederik Andersen.

Does Andersen have a legit shot at the Vezina, and do his average odds of +500 present any value for bettors? Read on to find out!

2019 Vezina Trophy Odds

Who Will Win the 2019 Vezina Trophy? Odds (12/4/2018)
Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators) +450
Frederik Andersen (Toronto Maple Leafs) +500
Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay Lightning) +600
John Gibson (Anaheim Ducks) +750
Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus Blue Jackets) +750

Has Andersen Really Been that Good?

In short, yes. Andersen’s been nothing short of heroic for the Maple Leafs this season. Statistical metrics, be it conventional or fancy stats, are extremely flattering of Andersen thus far.

Andersen has faced the second most shots against of any goaltender in the league, sitting at 33.14 a game and 658 total.

He’s faced the second most shots against of any goaltender in the league, sitting at 33.14 a game and 658 total. He’s played in 22 games and been on the ice for 1,064 minutes and is first in the NHL in wins at 15. He’s succeeding in all facets of the game, including eschewing his d-men on the breakout and showcasing his skills with brilliant passes like this one:

His SV% is 0.939, good for third in the NHL. His quality start % is 72.7%, well above his career average of 57.8%. He’s only let in more than three goals three times this season and posted a .950% + seven times already.

Andersen looks dialed in this season, and his statistics corroborate the eye test. Further, he’s been remarkably consistent this season, something that he’s struggled with throughout his career.

Has Andersen found the right rhythm and mental maturity to fully realize his skill set as a goaltender? The early returns on this season for the 29-year-old sure look good.

Can Andersen Continue to Thrive Under the Leafs’ Problematic Defense?

As strong as the Leafs are (2nd in the Atlantic, 3rd in the NHL) it’s largely been because of their tremendous forward depth and Andersen standing on his head. Toronto’s defense leaves much to be desired. It’s not a coincidence that Andersen has had to face so much rubber this season.

Many night, things have gotten really ugly. Look at this deke by Chabot on Ozhiganov in the first game of the season:

Defense like that should get you benched in the ECHL, much less the AHL, but Andersen plays behind that man every night!

Morgan Reilly is a tremendous talent, no doubt, but how many of Hainsey, Gardiner, Zaitsev, Dermott, or Ozhiganov would be playing top pairing minutes (or even second pairing minutes) on a bona fide contender? My guess is none of them.

Maple Leafs Defense Pairings

Left Defense Right Defense
Morgan Rielly Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner Nikita Zaitsev
Travis Dermott Igor Ozhiganov

However, Andersen putting up such great numbers in front of such a middling d-core will doubtlessly bolster his case for the Vezina.

Voters know it’s a lot harder to be brilliant behind a defense the caliber of Toronto’s than it is in for goaltender like, say, Pekka Rinne to put up great numbers behind an All-Star defense.

What Will the Vezina Trophy Come Down to?

If all of the major contenders of the award all finish the year with strong conventional statistics (GAA, SV%, Starts), the award may very well come down to win totals. In the last 5 years (with the sole exception of 2014, when Tuukka Rask won with 36 wins), all the goaltenders who captured the Vezina won at least 41 games.

Frederik Andersen is on pace for 52 wins. If can get even close to that number, there’s a good chance he’ll be coming home with a Vezina.

Further, the “good team bias” that often applies to the Hart Trophy and Norris Trophy doesn’t seem to apply to goaltenders, as NHL general managers seem to have no problem voting for goaltenders who play for powerhouse teams that sit near the top of the NHL.

Is Andersen Worth a Wager?

The short answer is yes. Andersen has a lot of factors working in his favor, chief among them that he plays in the largest hockey market in the world, and as such garners more scrutiny and attention than any other goaltender in the league. If he continues to post such great numbers over the course of the season (which is a big if, of course) he’s destined to at least be voted in as a candidate, and he’s got a good a shot as anyone of winning.

His top challengers in Rinne, Bobrovsky, and Vasilevskiy aren’t grabbing headlines with their eye-popping play this season, and as such don’t look to be serious contenders for the award. Anaheim’s John Gibson will challenge Andersen, but he’s hampered by playing in front of a mediocre, small-market Anaheim team.

Toronto might not have a Norris Trophy candidate, but they’ve got the next best thing in a bona fide Vezina Trophy candidate. Andersen almost assuredly has the best chance out of any Maple Leaf of capturing some major hardware at the end of the season.

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