Robin Alam/Icon SMI)
The 2011-12 NHL season saw some tremendous goaltending performances with numerous players being worthy of a Vezina Trophy candidacy. There can be only three candidates, however, and it will be hard to argue against any of the following three netminders.
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
A player who will also likely get some Hart Trophy consideration, Lundqvist backstopped the defensively-sound Rangers to their best regular season since their Cup-winning year in 1994.
Although he saw the least action since his rookie season, Lundqvist turned in the best statistical performance of his career, establishing new career-highs in wins, goals-against and save percentage. Ranking in the top 5 in all three of those categories, the 30-year-old netminder is up against some stiff competition for the Vezina. But it was his dominating play that led the Rangers to their superb season, and his play along with his team’s success gives him a good chance to claim the award.
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
Based on statistics, Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings would have to be the Vezina winner. The 26-year-old’s performance for the underachieving Kings was nothing short of spectacular and likely the only reason that the team was able to sneak into the post-season.
The NHL’s leader with an impressive 10 shutouts, Quick also finished second in the league in goals-against average, fifth in save percentage, and seventh in wins. He was also a workhorse in the crease for the Kings finishing fourth in total minutes on ice.
Although his team didn’t enjoy the success of a team like the Rangers, the case can be made that Quick was more valuable to his team than any other goaltender in the league, because without him Los Angeles would not have even come close to a playoff berth.
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
Once again, the big Finnish goalie made a strong case for the Vezina, as well as proving how valuable he is to the overall success of the Predators.
What he might have lacked this year in his goals-against average and save percentage, Rinne more than made up for with his NHL-leading 43 wins. The 29-year-old saw [by a wide margin] more action than he had in any of his three previous seasons as Nashville’s starter and was the winning goaltender in all but five of his team’s 48 total victories this year. He was also the league’s second busiest puck-stopper, finishing behind only Jonas Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks in total minutes played.
Like Lundqvist and Quick, Rinne’s value to his team goes beyond the numbers. He continues to be one of a handful of NHL goalies that can be considered the clear cut most valuable player to their team and worthy of both Vezina and Hart Trophy consideration.
With the season the Rangers had, Lundqvist is probably the odds-on-favorite for the award. The team plays a tenacious defense in front of him, but without Lundqvist they would not be able to be so confident in doing so. Nominated three previous times, the handsome Swede finally breaks through and captures his first Vezina Trophy.