On a THN Puck Panel video a couple weeks back, Ryan Kennedy and I discussed a few awards and who the frontrunners were for each.
When it came to the Vezina Trophy, I was ready to hand it over to Henrik Lundqvist. After all, his numbers are incredible and his team is first place in the league. The fact he’s been so good for so long and has come so close to winning this award a number of times really makes you feel like he’s earned it. (Yes, I know, this isn’t a career accomplishment award.)
Now, with the regular season ready to close up this weekend, I want to take back my proclamation and shuffle my allegiance over to Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
While a case can still certainly be built for the Rangers netminder, the one Quick has compiled overshadows it in nearly every way. You can also toss out the names Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak in tandem, but personally I’d have a problem giving a season-long award to two goalies who didn’t play 50 games.
Quick trumps Lundqvist in goals-against average, shutouts and games played, while his save percentage is a smidgen below Lundqvist’s. Quick also has three fewer wins, but his team was battling for the eighth playoff spot in the West until recently, while the Rangers have been a Presidents’ Trophy competitor for a number of months. Not to mention Quick is only 8-6-3 (a losing record) in games where he’s only allowed one goal.
Where would Los Angeles be without this type of performance from Quick? Despite all the firepower on paper, the Kings are 29th in offense and relied on him to keep them in the race. This speaks volumes to Quick’s candidacy for the Hart Trophy as well. While I’d be hard-pressed to give it to anyone besides Evgeni Malkin, Quick is certainly in the conversation.
When I asked Quick at all-star weekend if he thought there was an East Coast bias conspiring against his award bids, he answered in a calm, Golden State tone.
“There are bigger markets out East, so it’s going to happen. Maybe they get a little more attention. At the end of the day you have to play well enough to earn the attention.”
I watch my fair share of late games, so I don’t believe I have this “East Coast bias” that gets tossed around whenever player qualities are debated. But Quick certainly has my attention now. He’s got to be the favorite for the Vezina.
UNLUCKY NO. 1?
Boy oh boy, while finishing fourth and fifth in either conference won’t get you a favorable matchup, it appears neither will finishing first.
Tell me, if you’re the Rangers in the East, would you rather line up against No. 8 Washington or No. 7 Ottawa? Washington’s recent playoff history aside, they’re tremendously dangerous in that scenario. In the West, if you’re the Blues or Canucks, would you cede the No. 1 seed in favor of potentially playing Phoenix instead of San Jose? No offense to the Coyotes, whom I respect as a tough grind-‘em-out team, but the Sharks are an all-world squad. Putting aside any notion they’re not a playoff team (one I contest, considering they’ve made it to back-to-back Western Conference finals), the Sharks are going to be a handful for the unlucky team that draws them. Assuming they make it, of course.
The first round of the NHL playoffs is the best in sports because upsets are common and the difference in talent level is often negligible. Methinks we’ll see at least one top seed knocked off in the opening round.
Of course, lots can still change between now and when the playoffs open April 11.
Rory Boylen is TheHockeyNews.com’s web editor. His column appears regularly only on THN.com.
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