This year's winner of the Vezina Trophy is Evgeni Nabokov.
When the San Jose Sharks sent Vesa Toskala to Toronto for the No. 13 overall pick in last year's NHL entry draft, they showed they believed Evgeni could become a star in the NHL. Boy, were they right.
After platooning last season with Toskala, Evgeni had a chance to show that he was the real No. 1 in San Jose.
Evgeni played the first 43 regular-season games for the Sharks, without sitting on the bench. In those 43 games, he won 25. That was equal to the amount of games he won all of last year, when he played in 50 games.
He finished the season with a league-leading 46 wins, nine more than his personal best, set in 2001-2002. He had a save percentage of .910, a GAA of 2.14, and six shutouts.
Nabokov carried his team on his back, playing 77 of 82 regular season games. Out of those 77, he won 26 one-goal games, mostly because of him. His stellar and consistent play allowed San Jose’s forwards to concentrate on their scoring efforts, and not worry so much about their defensive coverage.
“At one point this season we were on pace to score 50 fewer goals than we scored last season,” his coach Ron Wilson said. “And when you look back, the guy who carried us was Nabber.”
On a team full of question marks, it seemed that the answer was between the pipes all along. That is why Evgeni Nabokov takes home the Vezina.