Injuries and illness have thrown questions into the race for best goalie of the year, but one premier puckstopper must win the Vezina and the candidates are intriguing.
The Vezina race has been thrown into flux, due to the health of two top contenders. Minnesota’s Josh Harding, who is playing despite multiple sclerosis, hasn’t played since the calendar flipped over to 2014, while Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop took a skate to the back of the head Thursday night. How does this all change the race? Here’s a look.
1. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
Though Bishop had to leave the game against Ottawa, it sounds like he’s going to be OK. He has been incredible for the Lightning, posting a 26-7-4 record and a blistering .932 save percentage. The Bolts wouldn’t be where they are right now without him.
2. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
In a strange race, Rask is doing all he can to make his case. The Finn is a workhorse for the Bruins and has coupled an impressive 24-13-3 record with a sparkling .928 save percentage and league-leading five shutouts.
3. Josh Harding, Minnesota Wild
It’s tough to gauge where Harding will end up this season, because his affliction and the adjustments he must make to new medications is so unpredictable. As of now, he’s a contender based on his NHL-best 1.65 goals-against average and .933 save percentage, but will he garner enough starts by the end of the campaign?
4. Ben Scrivens, Edmonton Oilers
Coming off the heels of his 59-save performance against San Jose, it’s impossible not to give ‘The Professor’ some love. But Scrivens, who began the year as a backup in Los Angeles, faces a similar problem as Harding: He may not have enough starts by the end of the season to justify the Vezina. Right now he’s at 19 starts and the Oilers only have 26 games left. Even if he played them all, that’s a small sample size.
5. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins
Playing behind the powerhouse Pens helps, but don’t forget how banged up that blueline has been this season. Fleury has four shutouts, a 2.29 GAA and a sterling 29-12-1 record. That gawdy win total will go a long way towards getting his some consideration.
6. Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche
Armed with a brand-new contract, Varlamov has been looking like a mint himself this season, helping Colorado back into a playoff spot and throwing up some nasty numbers. The Russian Olympian is rocking a 27-9-5 record and .924 save percentage.
7. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
With his team steering through some doldrums, Price still managed to keep his stats respectable and his .921 save percentage sticks out the most. The Canadian Olympian’s record is a solid 23-16-4 and it will be interesting to see how he comes back from his trip to Sochi.
8. Jonas Hiller, Anaheim Ducks
Rookie Frederik Andersen actually has better stats, but Hiller is the main man on the team and his run of 14 consecutive wins was impressive. Though the streak is over, he still has four shutouts and a 2.39 GAA.
9. Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis Blues
Playing behind that Blues defense is a definite luxury, but Halak is playing his role. The veteran Slovakian has a 2.23 GAA, while running up a sweet record of 23-7-3. And let’s not forget: He was stealing games before he even got to St. Louis.
10. Jonathan Bernier, Toronto Maple Leafs
He has taken the crown as undisputed starter in Toronto and on a team that gets outshot nearly every night, Bernier actually seems to play better when more pucks are sent his way. His best stat is a .926 save percentage.