In a year where there was no shortage of outstanding goaltending performances, the NHL has narrowed its Vezina Trophy candidate list to three ‘tenders — New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist, Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne.
The trio of candidates ensures a first-time winner, though Lundqvist has been nominated three times prior while Rinne was a finalist in 2010-11. Quick has never been nominated for the Vezina.
As for the candidates…
He appeared in 62 games for the Rangers — winning a career-high 39 — and backstopped New York to first place in the Eastern Conference since 1993-94. “King Henrik” finished with a 1.97 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage, finishing in the top four in wins, GAA, save percentage and shutouts (eight).
The 26-year-old carried the Kings throughout the season and was instrumental in getting them the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. He played a career-high 69 games and had 35 of L.A.’s 40 wins this season, finishing with a 1.95 GAA, .929 save percentage and a stunning 10 (yeah, ten) shutouts.
His accomplishments came with almost no margin for error, as the Kings were 29th in the League in scoring at 2.29 goals per game. And while he had 34 losses in regulation, overtime or shootouts, the Kings scored two goals or fewer in 15 of them, and one goal or less in nine.
The lanky Finn was the league’s workhorse netminder this year, playing in 73 games and recording an NHL-best 43 wins. He was seventh with a .923 save percentage while facing the most shots in the League (2,153) and also had a 2.39 GAA with five shutouts.
It’s dangerous to assume much of anything in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, as the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators seem like they’re taking turns flipping the script.
After the Senators received the only two power-play opportunities through the first two periods, Phil Kessel drew a call on Dion Phaneuf. Justin Schultz almost immediately reminded us of part of the reason why his presence had been so sorely missed, scoring an authoritative 2-1 tally.
Here’s that goal:
There seemed to be a possibility that officiating would be a huge sticking point, as some didn’t like that call and Guy Boucher was incensed when a whistle was blown when Phil Kessel was hit in the ear with a puck. Penguins haters probably felt especially irritated since the Penguins scored while Zack Werenski was down (and bloodied) during a somewhat similar exchange earlier in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Some will bring that up, especially once we find out how this one will end, but Ryan Dzingel shifted the focus to how the Senators just won’t quit as he scored soon after that 2-1 goal to tie it 2-2, the second time Ottawa’s fought back (quickly) from a seemingly huge Penguins goal.
Watch that goal above, then hold your breath as this game goes to overtime.
So far, the Ottawa Senators are getting their way in Game 7, as their 1-1 contest against the Pittsburgh Penguins has been a grinding, sometimes stifling affair.
This sets the stage for a dramatic finish, as the two teams are locked up by that 1-1 score heading into the third period.
With a trip to the Stanley Cup Final on the line, everyone’s pushing hard, and sometimes that means delivering hard hits.
All things considered, you’d be hard-pressed to top Marc Methot‘s hip check on Evgeni Malkin from a degree-of-difficulty standpoint.
Hip checks are already endangered species in the NHL because it’s just so difficult to lineup in this speedier, more skillful game. But to do it in a tied Game 7, against a driven Malkin, in your own zone? That’s borderline audacious. Then again, Methot’s fighting through that gruesome finger injury (along with … maybe other things given playoff secrecy), so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised.
Here’s hoping that you didn’t take a poorly-timed break in the second period.
For much of Game 7, the Ottawa Senators have been able to slow down the Pittsburgh Penguins, resulting in a contest that went scoreless for what sometimes felt like ages.
Chris Kunitz changed that, long after missing on a golden opportunity shortly after Mike Sullivan decided to put him on Sidney Crosby‘s line. Kunitz finished a nice rush play to make it 1-0 9:55 into the second. Check out that goal below.
Guy Boucher didn’t have to deploy “attack mode” very long, as Mark Stone stunningly tied it up 1-1 just 20 seconds later. That surprising tally can be seen in the clip above this post’s headline.