No position in sports has more influence over the outcome of a game than a goaltender in professional hockey.
A quarterback in football probably comes close and a pitcher in baseball can mean just as much from time to time, but a goaltender's influence is substantial on an every-game basis.
The NHL honors the goaltender who is "ajudged" to be the best in the league with the Vezina Trophy. In many years, the Vezina Trophy winner will also key a long run by his team in the playoffs. However, playoff performance is not a factor in awarding the Vezina.
It's a regular-season award. Two years ago, Tim Thomas won the Vezina and then led the Boston Bruins to the Stanley Cup. Last year, Henrik Lundqvist won the Vezina and led the New York Rangers to the Eastern Conference finals.
This year's potential Vezina Trophy candidates include several newcomers to consider and one superb regular contender.