Today, the National Hockey League announced the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy. The Vezina Trophy is handed out annually to the best goaltender as judged by the NHL General Managers. In 2012, the three finalists are Henrik Lundqvist (NYR), Jonathan Quick (LAK), and Pekka Rinne (NAS).
In 2012, the NHL should have considered having four finalists for the Vezina. One goaltender that has flown under the radar much of his career and had a tough road to success is Phoenix Coyotes' goaltender Mike Smith.
In several of the major statistical goaltending categories, including goals against average, save percentage, wins and shutouts, Smith was better than at least one of the current Vezina Trophy nominees.
Mike Smith's stat line for the 2011-12 regular season is as follows: 38 wins (three more than Jonathan Quick), a GAA of 2.21 (better than the 2.29 of Pekka Rinne), a save percentage of .930 (tied with Henrik Lundqvist and better than both Quick and Rinne), and eight shutouts (tied with Lundqvist and three more than Rinne).
Smith may not have the past accolades of a Lundqvist, Quick or Rinne, and he was never touted as a world-class goaltender, but he has shown in 2011-12 that he deserves to be included among these all-stars as one of the top goalies this season.
Mike Smith was arguably the Phoenix Coyotes MVP this regular season, and despite the departure of Ilya Bryzgalov to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Coyotes—thanks to the play of Smith—find themselves back in the postseason in 2012, and in the second round for the first time since the franchise moved from Winnipeg.
One could easily make the argument that without Smith's play down the stretch and throughout the 2011-12 regular season, the Coyotes would not have made the playoffs at all.
Although postseason play is not supposed to factor in for voting on regular season awards, it usually finds a way to get involved. Based on Mike Smith's stellar play in helping the Coyotes to the second round, it only adds to his case to be nominated for the Vezina Trophy in 2012.
It does not add up as to why Mike Smith was left off the Vezina Trophy nominee list in 2012, but you can be sure he will use it as extra motivation going forward, both in this postseason and next season.
John Bain is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist
Follow him on Twitter: @JohnBainSports
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