As the playoffs roll on, so to do the nominations for the NHL year end awards, slated to be held some time after the playoffs. Today the league announced the finalists for the Vezina Trophy and they include Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks.
The Blue Jackets just about made the playoffs and it was Bobrovsky’s play on a nightly basis that kept their Cinderella season alive right up until game 48. Posting a record of 21-11-6 isn’t the reason he has been nominated. Rather it’s the .200 GAA and the .932 save percentage that helped Bobrovsky be included in this elite category. For the record his save percentage was the best in the league for any goalie that started more than 30 games.
For Lundqvist, it’s another nomination in a category that he is starting to dominate in. Similar to fellow countryman, Nicklas Lidstrom who as a constant nomination for the Norris Trophy, Lundqvist is starting to become a regular for the Vezina.
His 24 wins led the league and his goals against average of 2.05 along with his .926 save percentage were also near the top of each category. He started 43 games which was also tied for the league lead, proving that he’s a work horse that can deliver the goods on a consistent basis.
Seeing Bobrovsky’s and Lundqvist’s name tied to this award was expected, but seeing Niemi as a finalist might be a bit of a surprise to some. It’s easy to forget about Niemi, playing on the west coast and for a Sharks team that made little noise all year. But when you look at his numbers, it’s easy to understand why he’s been nominated.
He did have 24 wins, tying him with Lundqvist and he too started in 43 games. He produced some impressive numbers with a 2.16 GAA and a .924 save percentage, falling among the league leaders in both categories.
When the envelope is opened, I believe it will be Lundqvist’s name that is read as the winner. His numbers are simply better than Bobrovsky’s and while Niemi’s are close, it could come down to the east coast versus west coast argument that the media doesn’t see enough of a team like the Sharks to appreciate the value he brings to his team.