Ottawa's Robin Lehner isn't in the Vezina discussion this season, but Senators fans hope he will be soon. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)
Who needs a goalie? With the trade deadline approaching, that’s usually a big question, but the market is stagnant and the bigger news is coming from the dead-end teams who are getting performances from unknowns.
In Toronto, James Reimer is posting excellent numbers for the defensively challenged Maple Leafs. His .929 save percentage is exemplary and would be even higher had he not been initiated into the Buds’ latest rite of passage: getting annihilated by the Buffalo Sabres. Rivalry bloodbath notwithstanding, Reimer notched his first NHL shutout in a win against Carolina and has been playing so well that Jonas Gustavsson was sent to the American League.
Higher up in the province, Ottawa brass is becoming ever more infatuated with Robin Lehner, the Swedish rookie who has given his all and played with fiery resolve on a team that generally lacks those characteristics.
And on Long Island, any news that isn’t horrible is good these days. Rookie Kevin Poulin has carried a 4-2-1 record so far and will get more work now that Rick DiPietro is on the shelf long-term once again. Poulin’s .924 save percentage is another positive harbinger.
While none of those three are in the Vezina running, they’re making headlines, as are the 10 below who make up our ranking in the top-goalie race.
Game of the Month: It was a result only a goalie could love. Minnesota outlasted Los Angeles 1-0 in a shootout, with Niklas Backstrom earning the ‘W’ and Kings backup Jonathan Bernier having to settle for the moral victory of a 1.000 save percentage. Not only were the netminders perfect through 65 minutes, but both were near flawless in the shootout, with Pierre-Marc Bouchard scoring the only tally on Bernier.
Rising: Since being rescued from Long Island by Bolts GM Steve Yzerman, Dwayne Roloson has been something to watch for Tampa Bay. The grizzled veteran has posted four shutouts in just under a month for the Lightning and given up just five goals in his past four games, including back-to-back blankings of Philly and Toronto.
Falling: The Stars are swooning lately and Kari Lehtonen’s fairytale season is taking a beating as a result. The Finnish netminder has lost four of his past five starts and the one win came against the bottom-feeding Oilers. His goals-against average is up to 2.63 as a result.
MAKING THE CASE
| ||Tim Thomas||The Boston netminder’s .945 save percentage would be the highest in the history of the William Jennings Trophy and naturally puts him in line for the Vezina, as well.|
| ||Pekka Rinne||Were it not for Thomas, Rinne’s stats would have him first in line for goalie hardware. The towering Finn boasts a 2.04 goals-against average and .931 save percentage, while giving the Preds a chance to win every night.|
| ||Niklas Backstrom||Only three teams in the West have surrendered fewer goals than Minny and Backstrom is a big reason. Only the Oilers had scored fewer goals in the conference, though, which is why the Wild are sitting in ninth.|
| ||Semyon Varlamov||The Caps are trying to shore up their defensive game and it’s come at the expense of offense. No worries when Varlamov’s in net, though; his 2.13 GAA and .928 SP attest to that.|
| ||Marc-Andre Fleury||With Sid on the shelf and Geno gone for the season, the Pens’ success falls to Jordan Staal and Fleury. Fortunately, Fleury has been aces pretty much all year for Pittsburgh.|
| ||Roberto Luongo||Luongo has a great team in front of him, but he’s still a big factor with a .926 SP and one of the best records in the league at 25-8-7.|
| ||Jonas Hiller||‘Dark Helmet’ has been such a force for the Ducks this season that he got himself all lightheaded on the weekend. Anaheim fans better hope it was just a spell, because his 47 appearances have been crucial in the O.C.|
| ||Henrik Lundqvist||On a lot of nights, Lundqvist has to do it himself for the Blueshirts. Hank’s seven shutouts are tied for tops in the NHL with Thomas and the Rangers are still in a playoff spot despite a recent swoon.|
| ||Jonathan Quick||A five-game win streak (preceded by a four-game losing skid) has Quick back in the race and the Kings have ridden him back into a top-8 slot. Quick’s 2.14 GAA is one of the best marks in the league and his five shutouts rank third.|
| ||Carey Price||No netminder has logged as many minutes or counted as many wins as Price, who helped the Habs navigate a tough road in the schedule the past two weeks.|
Outside Looking in: Ondrej Pavelec's numbers are still decent (.924 save percentage and 2.53 goals-against average), but Atlanta is in the tank right now and 'Pavelectric' can't pull the Thrashers out. Corey Crawford has hit a lull in Chicago, where the Hawks desperately need a bona fide No. 1 netminder if they are going to even get a chance to defend the Stanley Cup.
Dropped Out: Pavelec, Tomas Vokoun
THN.com's Vezina Trophy Watch will appear monthly throughout the season. And don't miss out as we'll also track the Hart, Norris and Jack Adams, in THN's Trophy Watch.
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