Vezina Trophy Watch: Quick takes early lead

We all know goalies are a bit of an enigma, a fact magnified in the past couple years as the game has opened up and the netminder age slowly washed away.

However, while Chris Osgood, Michael Leighton and Antti Niemi made appearances in the Cup final and Roberto Luongo, Ryan Miller and Martin Brodeur struggle to get out of the first two rounds, the Vezina Trophy always seems to find a home with one of the game’s more recognizable names – except for Tim Thomas’ win in 2009, but that 36-year-old is no slouch. Oh, and that Jim Carey guy in 1996, but then again his name is recognizable.

How crazy is the goalie market? Last year’s Eastern Conference champs used Leighton and Brian Boucher in the playoffs and down the stretch, but started the year with Ray Emery. This season they started with another long shot in Russian free agent Sergei Bobrovsky. Is he a flash in the pan or is his Vladislav Tretiak-like down-low style for real? Meanwhile, in Washington, Jose Theodore’s 30-7-7 record and hot play down the stretch last season weren’t enough to keep him as “the guy” in the post-season or even in the lineup this year. And with Semyon Varlamov out with injury it’s been another kid, Michal Neuvirth, who has taken the reins. After a bit of a rocky start against Atlanta, Neuvirth has earned four wins in a row and hasn’t allowed more than two goals against in any of them.

Not to mention Nashville. A franchise with a propensity to bring along goalies – think Tomas Vokoun, Chris Mason, Pekka Rinne – is giving another the taste of the high life. A seventh round pick (207th overall) in 2008, Anders Lindback has stepped in seamlessly for the injured Rinne and is one of a few surprising reasons why Nashville is one of three teams that hasn’t lost in regulation yet.

Like our take on the Hart Trophy, it’s very early. Think of this as a Power Rankings for goalies – we’ll rank players based on their current season, but also with some weight towards past accomplishments. Throughout the season there will be a cycle of four Trophy Watch features (Hart, Vezina, Norris and Jack Adams) appearing every week, so each will be updated once per month.

GAME OF THE MONTH: After stalling at the end of the regular season and losing in Round 1 to Vancouver, Jonathan Quick started this year in a head-to-head match with Luongo and the Canucks. He turned in a 23-save performance and was beaten just once during a 2-1 overtime victory for the Kings.

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Los Angeles Kings
Will be pushed all year long by Jonathan Bernier, but proving 2009-10 wasn’t a fluke. So far, Quick is 3-0 and hasn’t allowed more than one goal in a game.
Florida Panthers
Tomas Vokoun Lost first two starts on Canada’s West Coast, but earned back-to-back shutouts against Calgary and Tampa.
Boston Bruins
Tim Thomas His quick start has made the Bruins second-guess relegating him to a full-time backup just yet. Shutout in Europe followed up by a stellar 31-save effort against New Jersey.
Phoenix Coyotes
Ilya Bryzgalov A Vezina finalist last season, ‘Cool Bryz’ has faced no fewer than 33 shots in any of his three starts. Has a 1-1-1 record, but strong showing in first game back from Europe against Red Wings shows he’s picking up where he left off.
Toronto Maple Leafs
J-S Giguere Hasn’t lost a game yet and, aside from a few shaky minutes in Madison Square Garden, has looked like the Giguere of old.
Washington Capitals
Michal Neuvirth Four straight wins and a 2.16 GAA for a team that allows more than 30 shots against per game. The Capitals officially have a goalie battle on their hands.
Dallas Stars
Kari Lehtonen Yikes. A so-so start on the East Coast that still garnered two wins was followed up by good games against Detroit and St. Louis at home. Team swings back to the East this week – can Lehtonen finally stay healthy and meet his potential?
Buffalo Sabres
Ryan Miller Sure his record is a turn-off, but he’s lost a 1-0 game and a 2-1 game. Starts against Chicago and New York were just an anomaly for Buffalo’s MVP.
Vancouver Canucks
Roberto Luongo Only one win so far, but stole it in 41-save effort over Vokoun and Florida. Luongo will have his five-goal blowups here and there, but you can pencil ‘Lou’ in for a big season.
Philadelphia Flyers
Sergei Bobrovsky Still has to prove he can do it over the long haul, but wins against Pittsburgh and Colorado were a solid start. Let’s see how he bounces back from first loss.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: A hot start in Europe earned Cam Ward a spot on our first Hart Trophy Watch, but two mediocre appearances in North America bump him down. We’ll chalk it up to jet lag, but Ward will have to keep battling on a West Coast swing; Hurricanes don’t play at home until Washington visits Oct. 27. Other notables: Jimmy Howard, Craig Anderson, Jaroslav Halak, Carey Price, Anders Lindback.’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.