NHL Awards: Rask, Varlamov, Bishop finalists for Vezina Trophy
The top three vote-getters in the battle for the Vezina Trophy as the top goaltender are Tuukka Rask, Semyon Varlamov and Ben Bishop.
In the continued revealing of the finalists for this year's NHL Awards, Friday was the goaltenders' turn.
The Vezina Trophy, which is voted on by the 30 general managers unlike the previous awards that have been named, goes to the best goaltender in the league. This year's top three are Tuukka Rask of the Bruins, Semyon Varlamov of the Avalanche and Ben Bishop of the Lightning.
It's hard to believe but this is the first time that Rask is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. Rask led all goalies this regular season (who appeared in at least 30 games) with a .930 save percentage and his goals against average of 2.04 was second with the same caveat. Rask also had seven shutouts, the most in the NHL, and helped lead the Bruins to the Presidents' Trophy, nearly taking the Jennings Trophy home for he and Chad Johnson in the process.
Varlamov, meanwhile, might have meant more to this team than any other goalie in the league this season, something that earned him plenty of votes for the Hart Trophy as well for MVP. The Avalanche -- as was perfectly demonstrated in Game 4 on Thursday night -- give up a lot of shots and don't take a whole lot themselves. All the Avalanche did with that style of play was win the best division in hockey and engineer an amazing turnaround from last season to this. All Varlamov did was post a franchise record 41 wins, besting his new coach Patrick Roy, with a .927 save percentage.
At one point this season, Bishop appeared like he could be running away with the Vezina. The goaltender for the Lightning was lights out in the first half of the season, one big reason why the Lightning were still winning without Steven Stamkos and a heavy contingent of rookies. It was a breakout season but he did see his numbers go down as the season wore on but he still finished with a save percentage of .924 and had five shutouts. It was the first season where Bishop was the No. 1 goalie and he lived up to his massive (he's 6'7, remember) potential.
This is one of the more interesting battles among the awards this year. It should be really tight between Rask and Varlamov for the top honors. If Varlamov were to win, he would be the second straight Russian goaltender to take the hardware home after Sergei Bobrovsky won it last season.
The Vezina Trophy will be handed out on June 24 with all the other trophies at the NHL Awards Show, set in Las Vegas.
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