How Roberto Luongo lost out on the Vezina Trophy?

The news broke today that Roberto Luongo is one of the three goaltenders nominated for the Vezina Trophy, a nice acknowledgement of his superb regular season (let's forget about the last two playoff games for a moment). This post addresses something I have been wondering about for a while now, particularly as Luongo's goals against average and save percentage crept lower and lower as the season drew to a close. Despite those declining numbers it was hard not to notice that his shutout totals remained low in comparison to other potential Vezina nominees like Tim Thomas, Henrik Lundqvist, Carey Price, and Pekka Rinne. Luongo ended up with four shutouts, thanks to a late-season goose-egg against the Wild. Those other guys? Nine, eleven, eight, and six whitewashes, respectively.

Now, remember those games against the Oilers and the Flames in which Luongo had a shutout going until the team blew it in the closing seconds? One of them led to arguably the biggest non-story of the year, when Luongo stormed off the ice and didn't come out for the Three Stars announcement and requisite Dan Murphy interview. Those were annoying goals to give up both for the Canucks goaltender and for fans who like to see our star players pad their stats. But might they also have affected Luongo's chances at winning the Vezina Trophy?

Now I am well aware that hockey is a 60 minute game, that all teams give up bad/late goals, and that statistics like GAA and SVP give no sense of the impact of particular saves or goals against. So consider this a whimsical exercise in thinking how a couple different bounces could have resulted in very different statistical results for Luongo this season-in particular, statistics that reflect favourably on a goaltender in award voting. First of all, here are Luongo's numbers this season:


GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2010 - Roberto Luongo 60 3590 38 15 126 2.11 1753 1627 .928 4

Now here are those of the two goalies against whom Luongo is competing for the Vezina:


GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2010 - Tim Thomas 57 3364 35 11 112 2.00 1811 1699 .938 9


GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2010 - Pekka Rinne 64 3789 33 22 134 2.12 1905 1771 .930 6

Finally, consider these five hockey games in which Luongo allowed just one goal and it came relatively late in the third period:

Oct. 22, 2010 vs. Minnesota Wild

Result: 5-1 Canucks win

Opponent goal:  Antti Miettinen at 17:25 of the third to make it 4-1

Dec. 12, 2010 vs. Edmonton Oilers

Result: 2-1 Canucks win

Opponent goal:  Jordan Eberle at 19:55 of the third to make it 2-1

Jan. 5, 2011 vs. Calgary Flames

Result: 3-1 Canucks win

Opponent goal:  Tim Jackman at 19:49 of the third to make it 3-1

Mar. 23, 2011 vs. Detroit Red Wings

Result: 2-1 Canucks win

Opponent goal:  Jiri Hudler at 11:38 of the third to make it 2-1

Mar. 25, 2011 vs. Atlanta Thrashers

Result: 3-1 Canucks win

Opponent goal:  Bryan Little at 14:30 of the third to make it 2-1

Obviously the games versus the Flames and Oilers stand out as particularly egregious examples of blown shutouts. The Thrashers and Red Wings games do not so much, given the time of the period at which the goals were scored. The Minnesota goal was borderline in terms of when it was scored, but given the lead the Canucks enjoyed at that point it was a meaningless goal that shouldn't have happened and can be lumped in with the Flames/Oilers goals.

So, let's assume for a second that three of these five goals were not scored. What would Luongo's numbers look like for the 2010-11 season? (My SVP calculations assume that the shot was not taken).


GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2010 - Roberto Luongo (altered)
60 3590 38 15
123 2.06 1750 1627 .930 7

Looks a lot more impressive, huh? Those extra few GAA points and, especially, those extra three shutouts really improve the optics of Luongo's stat-line, and put him in a much stronger position to challenge Thomas or Rinne for the Vezina. Obviously none of this matters given that he did allow those goals. But it goes to show you how imperfect statistics are and how much they can be impacted by plays that, over the course of the season, are otherwise entirely insignificant. Three more minutes of shutout hockey, spread over three games, could have given Luongo a shot at his first career Vezina Trophy.

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