The 2012 NHL Awards, finally, are right around the corner.
This hockey season's greatest player, coach, defenseman, general manager, heck, even the EA Sports NHL 13 cover winner, will be announced on June 20 at the awards show. And among the most intriguing picks will be the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the league's top goaltender.
The Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings will be sending their playoff MVP Jonathan Quick to the party, who should be a clear favorite for the award. But he's not the only candidate who enjoyed a playoff run.
New York Rangers net-minder Henrik Lundqvist, who took his team to the Eastern Conference Finals, is also a candidate for the Vezina. So is Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, who willed his team to a series win over the Detroit Red Wings before being knocked out by Phoenix in the conference semis.
Elite goaltending play has had a knack of taking over the season and postseason, and this year is no exception. Let's see who has the best chance to take home this year's Vezina.
It's no secret that Quick is the odds-on favorite to win this year's Vezina Trophy.
It's just Quick's first nomination for the award, but his resume blows the other candidates' ones out of the water. His playoff performance earned him the Conn Smythe trophy as the playoff MVP. He earned three shutouts in the playoffs, led the field in save percentage and goals against, and most importantly, ensured all of the 16 wins that won L.A. their first Stanley Cup.
But we all know that these awards are based on the regular season, too. Thankfully for Quick and Kings fans, he had a stellar 2011-12 campaign from the get-go. His 1.95 goals against average was the best among goalies who played in more than 40 games.
Quick's Odds: 60%
Lundqvist had as impressive of a regular season as anyone, which is the main driving force behind his nomination for the Hart Trophy as the league's top player (skater or goalie). But his team's surprising loss in the conference finals shines some light on who the league's best goalie is.
Lundqvist and Quick, along with Rinne were neck-and-neck heading into the playoffs with the best postseason performance likely determining the winner.
He let up less than two goals per game on average in 62 appearances during the regular season, and was third in the league behind Rinne and Marc-Andre Fleury with 39 wins. He also posted 8 shutouts.
Lundqvist's Odds: 25%
I live in Nashville and follow the Preds as closely as anybody, but Rinne has no chance to win this year's Vezina.
Rinne had a superb regular season and undoubtedly deserves to be nominated as a finalist for the year's top goaltender. He led the league with 42 wins, but was relied on too heavily by Nashville's coaching staff due to backup Anders Lindback's disappointing appearances in many of his utility starts.
He was the hottest goaltender in the league in the latter half of the regular season by far. But unfortunately for the Predators, the start to his 2011-12 season was average by Rinne's standards, and he was out-dueled by Coyotes emerging star Mike Smith in the playoffs.
Hey, he can still win the NHL 13 cover!
Rinne's Odds: 15%