Hellebuyck, Rinne and Vasilevskiy are 2018 Vezina Trophy finalists

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NHL Awards season is upon us and on Tuesday night the league announced the first group of finalists, revealing the top-three vote-getters for the Vezina Trophy, which is awarded to the NHL’s top goalie.

The NHL’s 31 general managers are responsible for voting for the Vezina, and this year their top-three includes Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators, Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets.

None of them have won the award before, but this will be Rinne’s fourth time as a finalist.

Now let’s take a look at the case for each goalie to win it.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

The Case For Pekka Rinne: The case for Rinne is a pretty simple one — he has probably been the best goalie in the league this season and has done it for the league’s best team.

It is not like he was just along for the ride, either. He was a key part of that success.

Among goalies that played in at least 40 games this season his .927 save percentage was tied for the second best in the league (with Marc-Andre Fleury) and behind only Antti Raanta.

His .939 even-strength save percentage was the best in the NHL (again among goalies with at least 40 games played) while eight shutouts were also tied for the league lead.

As noted above this is his fourth time as a finalist after finishing second in 2010-11 and 2014-15 and third in 2011-12.

Given what he did for the Predators this season this might be his year to win it.

The Case For Connor Hellebuyck: After years of the the position being a black hole that consumed the franchise, the Winnipeg Jets finally received a great goaltending performance.

When combined with one of the league’s best offenses the result was a Jets team that finished the regular season with the NHL’s second-best record. Like Rinne, Hellebuyck was near the top of pretty much every key goaltending category.

His overall save percentage of .924 was fifth best in the league, as was his .929 even-strength mark. His .901 mark on the penalty kill was sixth best and highest among the three finalists.

His six shutouts were second in the league, while his 44 wins were the most among American-born goalies and tied for the league lead.

The Case For Andrei Vasilevskiy: For the first half of the season it seemed as if Vasilevskiy was going to run away with the award as he was pretty much unbeatable through the end of December.

After that his production regressed a bit — perhaps some fatigue in his first year as a full-time starter? — bu the still finished with a really strong season, finishing tied for the league lead in wins, tied for the league lead in shutouts, was sixth in even-strength save percentage and ninth in overall save percentage. Given how he slowed down in the second half it is a testament to how dominant he was over the first three months that he was able to finish so high in so many categories at the end of the year.

Out of the three Vasilveskiy probably has the weakest case but it was still a great showing for Vasilevskiy this season and a clear sign that the team has its long-term goalie in place.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Coyotes’ Panik arrested for criminal trespassing

Scottsdale Police/ABC 15
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Arizona Coyotes forward Richard Panik was arrested for criminal trespassing on April 8 and then released with a citation, according to ABC 15.

Panik, 27, reportedly appeared to be intoxicated while refusing to leave the entrance of Scottsdale gastropub Bevvy. The incident reportedly took place around 8:50 p.m. local time.

The Coyotes released a statement to ABC 15 about Panik’s arrest, noting that they “are aware of the incident and still gathering information at this time.” Beyond that, the Coyotes didn’t provide a comment on the matter.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Panik is currently under contract with the Coyotes through the 2018-19 season. He was traded by the Blackhawks in the deal that sent Anthony Duclair to Chicago. He’s bounced around the NHL quite a bit during his NHL career (335 regular-season games, also 12 playoff contests), spending time with the Lightning, Maple Leafs, Blackhawks, and now Coyotes.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

PHT Morning Skate: Jagr’s not done; 10 storylines heading into playoffs

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• After going through some struggles during the regular season, Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky is looking forward to getting a fresh start in the playoffs. (Columbus Dispatch)

• Stanley Cup of Chowder looks at four reasons why the Bruins should be feeling optimistic heading into the postseason. (Stanley Cup of Chowder)

Stanley Cup Playoffs streaming, schedule and more

• The New Jersey Devils had to go through five years worth of struggles before getting back to the playoffs. Here’s a look back at everything they went through leading up to this point. (All About the Jersey)

• The Leafs and Jets are the only Canadian teams to make it to this year’s playoffs, but is either one of them really Canada’s team? (Pension Plan Puppets)

• Special teams, goaltending and depth will all play a factor in the series between the Flyers and Penguins. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

• The Golden Knights have one opening up front for four players. Who will head coach Gerard Gallant use for Game 1 against the Kings? He’ll have to chose between Ryan Reaves, Oscar Lindberg, William Carrier and Ryan Carpenter. (Sinbin.Vegas)

Connor Hellebuyck‘s 44 wins proved to be a record for an American goaltender playing in the NHL. (Jets Nation)

• Craig Morgan breaks down 10 intriguing story lines heading into the playoffs, including whether or not the Pens have another cup run in them. (FanRag Sports)

• The Arizona Coyotes have three players from Saskatchewan. So Friday’s bus accident that took the lives of 15 junior hockey players and staff in the province really hit close to home for Luke Schenn, Josh Archibald and Darcy Kuemper. (AZ Central)

• Even though he was waived by the Flames and was forced to continue his career in Europe, Jaromir Jagr hasn’t thrown in the towel on playing in the NHL next season. (New York Times)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Coyotes commit to Antti Raanta with three-year extension

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After four seasons of playing the backup role in Chicago and New York, Antti Raanta came to Arizona with the goal of owning the No. 1 goalie job for the Coyotes. He’s done just that and has been rewarded with a three-year extension, as 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s John Gambadoro reported Thursday night. The deal carries a $4.25 million cap hit, per TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

When the Coyotes decided against trading Raanta before the February trade deadline, which could have brought back assets to build on for the future, it was a clear sign they wanted to retain him going forward. In 45 starts this season, the 28-year-old netminder has posted a .935 even strength save percentage, and while the team has playing better of late, he’s put up a .952 in his last 25 starts.

While he was bothered by an early-season injury and banged up from a car accident, Raanta, who was acquired along with Derek Stepan via trade during the 2017 NHL draft, has managed to reach career highs in minutes and wins this season. With a young core that’s been gelling and productive since March 1, locking up the goaltending position is an important move for the franchise as the off-season arrives in the desert.

This summer could also see some answers develop in what the future holds for Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He’s eligible to sign an extension on July 1 as he enters the final year of his deal and the Swedish blue liner continues to express his happiness in Arizona.

“It’s just money. It’s not going to make you happier. It might make your life a little bit easier but it’s not going to make you happier,” Ekman-Larsson said last month when asked how big of a factor the dollar amount will be in his next contract. “I feel if you’re around good people, that’s what makes you happy. I feel like I have that here. This is where I want to be.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

PHT Morning Skate: Karlsson’s season over; Frozen Four Preview

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Erik Karlsson will not be heading on the road with the Ottawa Senators, which means his season is officially over. (TSN)

• Yesterday marked the start of the first ever Arab Club Cup Championship. The tournament, which will take place in Abu Dhabi, could help countries like Egypt fall in love with hockey. (ESPN)

Antti Raanta has been on a roll of late and the Arizona Coyotes would like to get him under contract in the near future. (Arizona Sports 98.7 FM)

• The Michigan Wolverines have been riding their top line through the NCAA Frozen Four Tournament. They’ll take on Notre Dame for a spot in the title game. (USCHO.com)

• Despite losing five or their top six scorers from last year, Minnesota-Duluth has managed to to make it back to the Frozen Four. They’ll have to get through Ohio State to make it to the final. (College Hockey News)

• Predators forward Filip Forsberg is getting hot at the perfect time. “When he’s going, he’s a big-time threat out there,” Ryan Johansen said. “Great time for him to start ramping his game up. … He’s a motivated player right now.” (Tennessean)

 • USA Today breaks down Zdeno Chara, Joe Thornton, Henrik Lundqvist, Jaromir Jagr, Henrik Zetterberg, Roberto Luongo and Patrick Marleau‘s chances of making the hall of fame. (USA Today)

• Avs first-rounder Cale Maker has decided to return to UMass for another year. He was drafted fourth overall last June. (Mile High Hockey)

• Amanda Kessel discussed beating Canada at the Olympics, obstacles she got through in her career, the cool things she got to do after winning gold, and more in this Q & A. (Athletes Quarterly)

• Up top, check out the highlights from last night’s game between the Lightning and Bruins.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.