Now the award finalists announcements are getting down to the meat and potatoes. The Vezina Trophy final three were announced on Wednesday and they are (drum roll please ...)
Just in case those names didn't give it away already, the Vezina is given to the best goaltender in the NHL. Last year it was taken home by Tim Thomas, so we're guaranteed a new winner this season when the award is officially handed out on June 20 in Las Vegas.
Really, this is just a two-horse race. Quick and Lundqvist were stone-cold locks to make the final three, the third nominee was pretty much just that, a third wheel. Somebody has to fill the spot. That is by no means a shot at Rinne. He was excellent this season, he led the league in wins with 43. It's just that Lundqvist and Quick were even more excellent.
Without Quick, does anybody think the Kings make the playoffs?
He was 35-21-13 for a team that struggled mightily to score goals this season. He posted a 9.29 save percentage and 1.95 goals against average. Oh, and he had a league-high 10 shutouts.
The amazing thing with Quick is that there were 17 other games this season where he only gave up one goal. So imagine than, more than once every three games -- 27 times -- he held the opponents to one goal or less. Again, he only won 35 games.
Then there's Lundqvist. Many would say this trophy for the King is way overdue. He ended up one win shy of 40 in just 62 starts, put up a 1.97 GAA and .930 save percentage. Those numbers look awfully similar to Quick's except the wins, an advantage Lundqvist has playing behind the Rangers. The way they block shots and won this season would make any goalie smile this season.
Sometimes it's good to compare a starter to his backup to see how much of the credit should go to the starter, how much to the system, etc. When you look at Lundqvist's backup, Martin Biron, the difference is pretty sizable. Biron was 12-6-0 but had a 2.46 GAA and .904 save percentage. Half-a-goal per game more and 26 percentage points less is pretty significant.
Don't underestimate the big-city appeal of Lundqvist for voters and perhaps some of that infamous East Coast bias. Plus, as I said, some might have seen this as being overdue for Lundqvist.
As for Rinne, well he was a finalist last season too. His load was heavy this season with 72 starts, but the Predators helped him out a bit by becoming more of an offensive threat, easing their reliance on Rinne a touch.
Of course, that didn't stop the fine people of Nashville from creating their own posing game called Pekka-ing. Yes, this really does exist.
Personally, my third vote by season's end would have gone to Mike Smith in Phoenix. His .930 save percentage was as good as Lundqvist and better than Quick's. He also deserves a ton of credit for helping Phoenix to its first division championship. He'd be a lock to be a finalist if they re-voted after the first round of the playoffs.
In the end I would cast my vote for Quick. He meant so much to the Kings this season. It's too bad for him the voting isn't done now instead of after the regular season because that would only further solidify Quick's spot for me.
But this is a race where you certainly couldn't go wrong if you picked Lundqvist either. I have a feeling Lundqvist will get the award when it's all said and done.