Vezina Trophy Watch: Rask pulling away

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With only a week and change left in the regular season, it’s crunch time for those players with their eyes on individual trophies. In the goaltending department, Boston’s Tuukka Rask managed to usurp Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop over the past month, but can he hang on for the final stretch? Here’s our ranking of the contenders.

1. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

With seven shutouts, Rask is the NHL leader in blankings and when you couple that with 34 wins, a 2.04 goals-against average and .930 save percentage, it goes without saying that he owns the pole position when it comes to the Vezina.

2. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning

He may have had a bad night against Calgary, but Bishop has still been one of Tampa’s most valuable players and a main factor in the team’s overall success. He has also become a workhorse overnight, ranking second in the NHL with 61 games played, while maintaining an excellent .926 save percentage.

3. Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche

Based on puck possession numbers, the Avs should not be vying for home-ice advantage in the Central, but with a netminder like ‘Varly’ between the pipes, the feat makes more sense. Varlamov is tops in the league with 39 wins and his .926 save percentage backs up his stellar play.

4. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

You can say pretty much the exact same thing about Price as you can for Varlamov: The “fancy stats” indicate just how valuable he has been to the Habs this season and he too is rocking the traditional numbers as well with a .925 save percentage and five shutouts in 56 starts.

5. Jonathan Bernier, Toronto Maple Leafs

Speaking of fancy stats, if anybody has been responsible for holding their acceptance back, it’s not the older generation of hockey journalists, it’s Bernier. His mastery in net has obscured Toronto’s defensive failings all year and it’s incredible that he will end this campaign with a save percentage in the .923 range.

6. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

He has tried to play through sickness and has elevated his Blue Jackets into a wild card slot in the past few weeks, turning around a season that started shaky but is now looking glorious. Bobrovsky’s shutout against Philly Thursday night nabbed Columbus a crucial two points and all he had to do was stop 37 shots to get it.

7. Ryan Miller, St. Louis Blues

That record of his is still even thanks to the losses he accrued in Buffalo, but there’s no doubt Miller went above and beyond in his last days as a Sabre. The more important mission for the former Vezina winner is getting St. Louis the city’s first Stanley Cup and he knows it.

8. Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks

Ranking second to Varlamov with 38 wins, Niemi bests his European counterpart with four shutouts to Varlamov’s one. Niemi’s save percentage is just respectable at .913, but on a dominating team such as the Sharks, he doesn’t get busy that often. His bosses will take the wins, though.

9. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

‘The King’ has now won at least 30 games in every full season he has played in the NHL (not including the lockout-shortened campaign last year). As always, Lundqvist is doing it with style, with five shutouts and 60 appearances.

10. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins

The injuries keep piling up around him, but Fleury has been there all season for the Pens, with 37 wins and a 2.35 GAA in 61 appearances. Only Mike Smith has played more minutes than the Pittsburgh goaltender and Fleury also has five shutouts to his credit.