The Vezina Trophy is given to the National Hockey League’s most exceptional goaltender. Last year, Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets was awarded this coveted piece of hardware. Bobrovsky won the Vezina by putting up statistics including a 21-11-6 record, and career highs in both goals against average (GAA) at 2.00 and a .932 save percentage.
To make his way atop his peers, Bobrovsky beat out fellow puck-stopping finalists Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers, and Antii Niemi of the Sharks. But despite Bobrovsky’s valiant effort to get Columbus into the playoffs for the second time in franchise history, the Jackets found themselves in ninth place at the final whistle. Once again the boys from Ohio were on the outside looking in.
This season is going to be different for hockey for both players and fans. There are new rules, new divisions and perhaps most importantly, a complete season. Although I have a great level of respect for Bobrovsky and his accomplishment, I cannot bring myself to believe that after a full 82 game season that his numbers will be as impressive. With fatigue becoming a factor in the final stretch of the season, the backups of each organization will be expected to make more quality starts. Columbus unfortunately may not have the depth in goal they desire with backup Curtis McElhinney to give Bobrovsky the rest he needs to repeat his title; but there are always surprises in net and only time will tell. Therefore I truly believe there will be a new Vezina winner, and here is my list of the top three potential Vezina winners:
(not in ranked order)
1. Henrik Ludqvist – Lundqvist’s ability to consistently be in the Vezina debate every year makes him an example of true elite goaltending. With the new offensive additions the Rangers have made the last two years, Lundqvist should get the goal support he needs to pile up wins.
2. Tuukka Rask – Rask has inherited the stingiest defense in the NHL from two-time Vezina Trophy winning Tim Thomas, and by default, the less pucks a goalie has to stop, the better his numbers will be. Not to mention Rask has 6-foot-9 team captain Zdeno Chara in front of him to make his job just a little bit easier.
3. Craig Anderson – Anderson was putting his name in the hat to be a Vezina finalist early last year, putting up a 1.96 GAA and .941 save percentage before going out with injury. If he can get into the rhythm he found himself in last year, those numbers are certainly enough to put him in the conversation.
However, every year there are over-performers and short-comers among goaltenders, and this year will undoubtedly be no different. This, in addition to some major offseason goalie trades will make the competition for this year’s Vezina Trophy as exciting as ever.
At each quarter pole of the season I will revisit this list- follow isportsweb on twitter to stay updated