With just a few weeks remaining in the 2011 NHL Season, the Vezina Trophy race has boiled down to just a two-horse race. With Jonas Hiller still out suffering from vertigo-like symptoms, Carey Price and Tim Thomas stand as the leading candidates for the Vezina.
Both goalies are enjoying remarkable years, but silencing critics is not the only thing these two goaltenders have in common.
Tim Thomas is no stranger to the detractors, and after losing the starting job a year ago to Tuukka Rask, showed how he responds.
Tim Thomas has been dominant this season, leading the league in save percentage (.937) and goals-against (2.06). He’s also skunked seven teams this year, good for third place and he could take home the Hart Trophy for MVP.
For those who question why Thomas would be a candidate, ask yourselves this one question:
Did anyone really believe at the beginning of the year that Thomas would take the job back and be as dominant?
The guy was just flat out nasty in the first half of the season, dominating opponents winning his first six games in a row. Thomas didn’t lose his third game until mid-December and carried the team in the early going.
With just 10 games remaining, and the Bruins currently at third place with a 40-22-10 record it will be interesting to see how many more starts Thomas takes.
At 36 years of age, Thomas turns 37 in April and his workload has been heavy for a reflex goalie of his style. Some nay-sayers may still say he’s too old to win come the postseason, but I wouldn’t want to bet against this man in seven games.
But it’s clear Thomas is in the midst of one of his finest seasons and it may be the difference in the Eastern Conference this year.
And where would the Montreal Canadiens be without Carey Price? Fans were stunned when GM Pierre Gauthier shipped playoff hero Jaroslav Halak off, believing that Gauthier he had made the wrong choice in net.
An earlier incarnation of Carey Price could have easily repeated his mistakes, and after some early season struggles it didn’t look very promising. Suggesting fans “chill out” as a response to a poor showing in a preseason game didn’t make things easier for young Price.
This year however Price has been peerless for the Habs and leads the league in games played, and wins. His cool confidence and demeanor has been huge for Price all season, and he has eight shutouts on the year. He seems to be more than comfortable with his heavy workload this season, and he’s carried the Habs to a sixth seed with 34 wins.
Could Price do what Theodore did in 2002 and win the Vezina as well as the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP? Theodore also carried the Habs in the playoffs that year, what could Price do this year is the No. 1 question for the Les Habitants.
He still has some work to do with the playoffs ahead, where he has historically not fared well. With a career save percentage well under .900 in 19 games, Price has only won five of those contests. Price needs to have an excellent postseason to cap off his tremendous season.
Every indication in the regular season says that he’s ready to take that next step in his growth as an NHL star netminder.
He’s within several franchise marks in wins, games played and save percentage in a season and for that blender of a position that’s a remarkable accomplishment.
You take the heroic efforts of one Jaroslav Halak a year ago, mixed with Price’s struggles to hold on to his starting job, and shove all of that into arguably the most pressure-packed position in all of sports and you start to see.
See that’s why Montreal fans think that the Price could be just right this season and bring back a Stanley Cup.
Having already “duked-it-out” in a February 9 matchup between the Bruins and Canadiens, Price and Thomas should again face off at the 2011 NHL Award Ceremony.
What do you think? Who do you think takes home the Vezina?