With a mere 14 games left in the NHL regular season, New York Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin seems to have the Vezina Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the league’s top goalie, all but locked up.
Sportsbooks in the New York area agree as Shesterkin is the heavy favorite for the award. DraftKings Sportsbook New York has him at -400.
BetMGM New York has Shesterkin as the favorite at -455.
That isn’t the only award that Shesterkin has a chance to win this year, as he is also one of the top three favorites for the Hart Memorial Trophy, which goes to the league MVP each year.
For your best guidance on New York NHL betting, check out EmpireStakes.com.
CLEAR FAVORITE FOR TOP GOALIE
The case for the Vezina is rock solid. As noted, Shesterkin is the favorite, but Jacob Markstrom of the Calgary Flames, Frederik Andersen of the Carolina Hurricanes and Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning are all in the mix.
Shesterkin leads the league with a .936 save percentage, far and away tops in the league ahead of Andersen, who is at .927 going into Thursday. Andersen is also the only full-time goalie that has a better goals against average, allowing 2.05 goals per 60 minutes, slightly better than Shesterkin at 2.11. Carolina happens to be a much better defensive team than the Rangers, making Shesterkin’s numbers more impressive.
The one knock against Shesterkin would be games played, as he ranks tied for 13th in the league in games started with 43 after missing most of December with injury. Markstrom and Vasilevskiy have been workhorses all year, starting 52 games each.
That shouldn’t be enough to sway voters of the award away from Shesterkin, as he has managed to compile a 32-9-3 record, giving him one more win than Markstrom and only two less than Vasilevskiy despite the games played disadvantage.
He has clearly been the best and most consistent goalie all year long, so it would take a massive slide over the last couple of weeks of the season for Shesterkin to lose his grasp on the award.
SHESTERKIN FACES SEVERAL CHALLENGERS FOR THE HART
Winning the Hart Trophy will be a much tougher task for Shesterkin. With the Vezina, there are only three or four other realistic options and all seem to be solidly in his rear view mirror.
At FanDuel New York, Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs is the current favorite to win the Hart Trophy at odds of +150, Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers is at +400 and Shesterkin at +600. Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers (+800), Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals (+1200) and Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames (+1500) are also in the conversation but would have to be considered unlikely winners at this point.
The Rangers currently sit in fourth place in the entire league, slightly ahead of Matthews’ Leafs and well ahead of McDavid’s Oilers.
The Rangers were active at the recent trade deadline, as they make a push for the Stanley Cup.
To truly analyze Shesterkin’s odds to win the Hart Trophy, one has to look at the recent history of goalies winning the award. Only twice since 2000 has it happened, with Jose Theodore winning in 2002 and Carey Price in 2015.
Both players had excellent seasons, but it is worth noting that there were no real standout performances by offensive players in those seasons, taking away a lot of the competition for the award.
In 2002, the league leader in points was on a non-playoff team, usually a big red flag for Hart Trophy voters, and only four players eclipsed 80 points.
In 2015, the league's leading scorer only had 87 points, leading voters to Price, who to his credit had a phenomenal 1.96 GAA that year.
While Shesterkin’s individual stats rival those of Theodore and Price in those years, and are perhaps more impressive given how much more offense-happy the league has become in recent years, the presence of what is likely to be five, and maybe as many as 10 100-point scorers this year will push voters toward the offensive stars.
SUMMING IT UP
Igor Shesterkin has had an unbelievable season and has the Rangers much higher in the standings than most would have predicted coming into the season He has been the best goalie in the league when healthy and his stats are elite enough that he should win the Vezina despite missing almost all of December.
His case for the Hart Trophy is also strong, but the long list of worthy challengers makes winning the league MVP a much more unlikely scenario.
With Matthews currently tied for the league lead in goals and having a solid impact all over the ice and two-time Hart winner McDavid once again leading the league in points, the competition likely will prove too much and keep Shesterkin from receiving both awards.