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Tuukka Rask Getting Vezina Buzz

Thursday, 01.09.2014 / 12:44 PM / Features
By Corey Masisak  - Staff Writer
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Tuukka Rask Getting Vezina Buzz
Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask gets the slight nod over Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning in\'s vote for the Vezina Trophy at the halfway point.'s midseason edition of Trophy Trackers attempts to project winners of the major individual awards. Today we predict the winner of the Vezina Trophy, an annual award given to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at this position as voted by the general managers of all NHL clubs.

The goaltending position can be a volatile one in any season, but as Senior Writer Dan Rosen wrote, the 2013-14 campaign has been a particularly precarious one for "No. 1" goalies.

Not only have backups been pressed into duty or earned more playing time, goaltending depth beyond the two NHL players has been critical in several cities. Standout work from breakout stars, combined with inconsistent play from more established ones, has brought new names into the conversation for the Vezina Trophy.

The goalie who won the award in 2013 (Sergei Bobrovsky) is tied for 28th in save percentage among qualified goalies and has missed time with an injury. The goalie who won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2012 (Jonathan Quick) is also tied for 28th in save percentage and has missed significant time with injury.

The player who won the Vezina in 2012 (Henrik Lundqvist) is 34th in save percentage and has been losing starts of late to an undrafted free agent who played in college at the University of Alabama-Huntsville and had zero games of League experience before this season.

There are some No. 1 goaltenders who have continued to set the standard at the position this season, including the resurgence of one of the other active Vezina winners. The leader at the midway point of the season, though, is the same player who was out in front at the three-quarters pole.

Among the goaltenders with 30-plus starts, Tuukka Rask is second in save percentage at .930 and in goals-against average at 2.05, and tied for the League lead in shutouts with four. The Boston Bruins have been short some key players with injuries, and the loss of defenseman Dennis Seidenberg for the season could end up having a big effect on Rask's statistics and by proxy the race for the Vezina.


Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning -- If voting for this award is based solely on statistics, then Rask over Bishop or Bishop over Rask could fluctuate every few days. It is that close. Bishop has been an amazing story this season, expected to battle with Anders Lindback for playing time with the Lightning but instead becoming a legitimate Vezina contender and the backbone of one of the surprising teams in the League.

He's just ahead of Rask in save percentage (.935) and goals against average (1.86), while the Bruins' goaltender has three more starts and has played about 160 more minutes. They're pretty much deadlocked at even strength, though Bishop has been better while his team is shorthanded.

Does Rask have a better team in front of him? Sure. Do people become too obsessed with that in an argument about who the better/more deserving player is for an individual award like the Vezina Trophy? Yes.

Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres -- Miller's .927 save percentage ranks him tied for fourth among goalies with at least 30 starts. There's an argument for Carey Price to be the third goalie on this list and maybe Semyon Varlamov or Josh Harding as well.

What Miller has done this season is remarkable and deserves to be recognized. His Buffalo Sabres have been vastly overmatched most nights, and Miller has faced a bombardment of quality scoring chances in nearly every game he's played in. He's easily leading the League in shots faced per game, and is nearly the leader in total saves (five behind Mike Smith) despite five fewer starts than the Phoenix Coyotes' goalie.

Harding's story goes beyond hockey, but he has struggled to stay in the net because of issues related to his multiple sclerosis. Price has slightly better numbers. Miller has been exceptional, despite knowing every night he's likely to see far more scoring chances and far more shots on goal than a team should ask its goaltender to deal with.

All Miller has done is excel, keeping the Sabres in games they had no business being in while pushing himself back to the forefront of the United States' plans for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.




1 TBL 51 32 15 4 166 133 68
2 MTL 48 32 13 3 128 108 67
3 DET 50 29 12 9 149 129 67
4 BOS 50 27 16 7 134 124 61
5 FLA 47 21 16 10 115 132 52
6 OTT 48 20 19 9 136 136 49
7 TOR 51 22 25 4 144 156 48
8 BUF 50 14 33 3 94 179 31


P. Bergeron 49 12 21 6 33
C. Soderberg 50 10 22 9 32
L. Eriksson 49 11 18 7 29
M. Lucic 49 10 18 10 28
B. Marchand 45 15 12 13 27
D. Hamilton 50 8 19 1 27
R. Smith 50 10 16 8 26
T. Krug 46 10 16 8 26
D. Krejci 30 6 18 9 24
C. Kelly 48 6 16 7 22
N. Svedberg 5 5 0 .922 2.22
T. Rask 22 11 7 .921 2.31
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