Goalie Tuukka Rask was the driving force behind the Boston Bruins' Presidents' Trophy-winning season, but that isn't the only hardware the fantastic Finn will take home as he was named the winner of the Vezina Trophy.
The NHL had the news on Twitter:
James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail breaks down the votes:
Vezina Trophy voting. Rask narrowly won over Varlamov. Quick, Mason and Lehtonen with some votes this year. pic.twitter.com/O4KrpTLnGS— James Mirtle (@mirtle) June 25, 2014
The Vezina Trophy is annually awarded to the NHL's best goaltender, and it is difficult to argue against the notion that Rask was the league's preeminent netminder during the 2013-14 NHL season.
Rask faced some stiff competition in the form of Colorado Avalanche stopper Semyon Varlamov and Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning, but it was ultimately determined that Rask was simply a cut above the rest.
Rask was tops among all NHL goaltenders with at least 50 games played in both goals against average (2.04), save percentage (.930) and shutouts (seven). His 36 wins ranked fifth with both Varlamov and Bishop ahead of him, but it's important to note that Varlamov and Bishop played in five more games than Rask.
The Bruins' season came to an abrupt end when they were ousted in the Eastern Conference Semifinal by the Montreal Canadiens, but that certainly doesn't take away from what Rask was able to accomplish over the course of the entire season.
After being named a finalist for the award back in April, Rask stressed the importance of team accomplishments over individual accolades, according to the Associated Press, via ESPN.com.
"It's something that comes after the Stanley Cup," Rask said. "That's your main goal. If you get nominated, it's great. If not, then it doesn't matter. But I feel honored to be nominated and happy to go to Vegas for the first time in my life."
If not for Rask's spectacular play throughout the season, however, there is no way that the Bruins would have experienced the overall team success that they did.
One person who was particularly supportive of Rask's nomination was Bruins head coach Claude Julien, who knew just how big of a role Rask played in Boston's excellent campaign, per the Bruins' official Twitter account:
Julien, on Rask's Vezina nomination: "To me, it's a no brainer. He's had such a good year for us" ^CS— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) April 25, 2014
Not surprisingly, Rask immediately emerged as the odds-on favorite to take his first Vezina Trophy. He immediately garnered support from some of the most respected hockey journalists in North America, including James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail:
Hart: Crosby Norris: Giordano Calder: Trouba Byng: Vlasic Selke: Bergeron Vezina: Rask Adams: Cooper Will post full ballot when it's up.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) April 16, 2014
Even TSN's Bob McKenzie immediately singled out Rask as the front-runner for the prestigious award:
Vezina: BOS's Rask a clear No. 1 (10 for 16) with COL's Varlamov solid 2nd. MTL's Price and TB's Bishop in virtual dead heat for 3rd spot.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) April 9, 2014
Although it has no bearing on his Vezina candidacy, Rask had a great season for his country in addition to his club. Despite Finland's consistent ability to reach the Olympic medal stand, few viewed them as legitimate threats to do so at the 2014 Sochi Games.
Rask missed Finland's semifinal contest against Sweden due to an illness, but he recovered enough to face Team USA in the bronze-medal game. Rask stood tall against one of the world's most talented teams and led Finland to a somewhat surprising bronze-medal triumph.
Who most deserved to win the 2013-14 Vezina Trophy?
The United States may have had a deeper team from top to bottom, but stellar goaltending is the great equalizer. Rask provided it in Sochi and he provided it for the Bruins all year long as well.
Boston will continue to be a Stanley Cup contender for the foreseeable future due largely to its strength up front and on defense, but Rask is the linchpin that will hold things together when injuries or inconsistent play strike.
Rask had big skates to fill when Vezina Trophy, Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy-winning goalie Tim Thomas left town. Rask has yet to win a Stanley Cup or Conn Smythe, but he has now captured one-third of that triad with his first Vezina Trophy.
There are likely many more to come for the 27-year-old Rask, who is firmly in his goaltending prime. He should have plenty of opportunities to potentially hoist Lord Stanley's Cup as well, but this is a nice consolation prize in the meantime.
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