| No Borscht for
Nabokov snubbed in Vezina race
6/12/08 - By Mike Lee
In a move fitting of the
Sharks season, San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov came up short on Thursday night. The
NHL honored the best and brightest at its annual awards show, except they gave
the Vezina trophy to the wrong guy. Awarded to the league's top goaltender,
2008 will go down as the year the second best goaltender in the NHL walked away
with the hardware. Problem is, second best and a couple of rings trump a better
New Jersey's Martin Brodeur edged out Nabokov for the
award with a 113-106 vote, conducted by the league's general managers. With
on-ice numbers slightly favoring Nabokov, this one came down to reputation and
Brodeur has the one trump card that Nabokov does not. Stanley Cup Champion.
So with statistics that mirrored each other, the award was decided by
reputation. Forget the fact that Nabokov racked up a 46-win season while
playing in a conference that is undoubtedly stronger than Brodeur's. This one
came down to Brodeur's resume, which contains the sparkly goodness that tends
to mesmerize the common general manager. "Stanley Cup Champion" has its
privileges, but Nabokov has yet to join the club.
Had the Sharks gone
further in the playoffs this season, the outcome may have been different.
Nabokov's division championship certainly carried no weight, even though it
came against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks. Tie doesn't go
to the Russian apparently.
Nabokov's 2.14 goal against average was a
smidge better than Brodeur's 2.17, but the Devils netminder countered with a
.920 save percentage to the Russian's .910. Both played a staggering 77 games
in the regular season, but in the end it was Brodeur who walked away with his
4th Vezina (all coming in the last 5 years).
I couldn't help but think
that Nabokov was stewing and relieved at the same time. The thought of the
Sharks netminder getting up in front of a room full of strangers to give an
acceptance speech makes me cringe. Nabokov would probably prefer to square off
against an Al Iafrate shot sans his goaltending gear, before having to step in
front of a microphone.
Then again, perhaps Nabokov has grown accustomed to
the disappointment of finishing second. Since winning the Calder Trophy as the
league's top rookie in 2001, Nabokov has been bounced from the playoffs in the
1st round once (2001 vs St Louis), the 2nd round four times (2002 vs Colorado,
2006 vs Edmonton, 2007 vs Detroit, and 2008 vs Dallas) and the 3rd round once
(2004 vs Calgary).
Playoff exits do not imbue a sense of greatness in
the legacy of any player, much less a goaltender. Leave a decision to a bunch
of general managers who may have seen Nabokov play once or twice in a season at
best, then it simply comes down to a popularity contest. Until Nabokov gets
over the Stanley Cup hump, he'll have to settle for second best if his
performance is marginally better than a guy like Brodeur.
|What did you think of
this article? Post your comments on the