The coveted Vezina Trophy is awarded annually to the league’s best goaltender. Last season, newcomer Sergei Bobrovsky won the award during his first season as a full time starting goalie. Bobrovsky carried the Blue Jackets throughout the season, and they poured their faith into him by trading away back up goalie, Steve Mason. Here is a short look at some goalies you should keep an eye on this season as potential Vezina winners.
1. Sergei Bobrovsky burst onto the scene this year and blew everyone in Columbus away. We all knew he was good, he showed glimpses of greatness in Philly, but when he finally got the reigns to a full time starting job, he wowed everyone. Bobrovsky gets the opportunity to show his skills again during a full 82 game season this year, and with a Columbus team that improved over the offseason, the Jackets could find there way into the playoffs in the new born Eastern Conference.
2. It didn’t take Tuukka Rask very long to make Bruins fans forget about Tim Thomas. He came out swinging last season, and held down the Boston fort just as well as Thomas ever had. Rask is up for another challenge this season with a new division stacked full of talent. The reigning Eastern Conference Champions will have quite a challenge ahead of them this season, and Rask is going to have to take the most of the work load, and help push Boston where they need to go.
3. Henrik Lundqvist is the league’s best goalie, and the Rangers have a new coach in town to help turn this team’s playoff woes around. Lundqvist is solid in the clutch, and has already won a Vezina in 2012. King Henrik will look to add another trophy to his case this season by playing like he did in 2012. He’s as good as they come and he’s entering a contract season, big play is going to make for big paychecks.
4. Jonathan Quick knows how to play hockey. Last season was a bit of an off year for him, but coming off of offseason back surgery, and not playing for a while due to the lockout may be reasons for his slow start, but we all know how talented he is, and we all saw the Quick we’ve become accustomed to seeing in the playoffs last season. The Kings will look to continue to build on the season before, and Quick will look to regain his status at the top of the NHL.
5. Jimmy Howard came out last season and carried the Red Wings to their 22nd consecutive playoff appearance. He established himself as an elite goalie in the NHL and with the work load he took on last season, he deserved to be mentioned in the Vezina race. The young defense in Detroit has a bit more experience now and that should help his numbers out quite a bit.
6. Nashville grabbed some offensive talent this summer, and it should help the Predators defensive mindset out a bit, and in turn it should help Pekka Rinne out. The more time the puck is in the offensive zone the less chance you have of being scored on. Rinne is an elite level goalie, his big body, flexibility, and quickness make him a great asset in net. His numbers slumped off a bit last season, but the Predators will look to bounce back this season and it all depends on the level of play Rinne brings to the table.
7. Roberto Luongo will no longer have anything else on his mind other than hockey. Hopefully. He’s played well in the preseason, and without the added pressure of Cory Schneider breathing down his neck Luongo can focus on getting his game back to the level that Canucks fans expect him to play at. Luongo has the ability to play at a Vezina level, and with the aging Canucks roster, Luongo will have to step up and play at that level to get the Canucks where they’ve been trying to get for years.
8. Antti Niemi was a finalist last season for the Vezina. He anchors the San Jose net, and he does it quietly and well. Niemi is a solid goaltender and has the skill set required for a Vezina. Niemi had a great season last year, and I don’t expect him to fall off anytime soon. He’s one of the best in the game, and he’s one of the more underpaid goalies in the NHL. He has two seasons left on his contract and San Jose is going to have to dig into their pocket book to get him the money he deserves.
Topics: Antti Niemi, Boston Bruins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Cory Schneider, Detroit Red Wings, Henrik Lundqvist, Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators, New York Rangers, Pekka Rinne, Roberto Luongo, San Jose Sharks, Segei Bobrovsky, Steve Mason, Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask, Vancouver Canucks, Vezina Trophy Watch