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.
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.
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.