Every year, the NHL awards the Vezina trophy to the goaltender who exemplifies the most outstanding performances over the regular season.
Roughly a third of the way into the 2011-2012 NHL season, we're chock-full of goaltenders who could make their case for a Vezina nomination, but here are five who stand above the rest.
Mike Smith may be the guy the Phoenix Coyotes owe their biggest thanks to for their success so far this season.
With an average ranked offense (16th) and an awful power play (29th), the Coyotes have needed a goalie who can give them a chance to win every game, and so far, Mike Smith has been that guy.
In 22 starts, Smith has 13 wins with the Coyotes, and he boasts a .931 save percentage. Not bad, but among other nominees, his 2.26 goals against average may hurt him.
Jonathan Quick is easily one of the best goalies in the NHL today, and with Jonathan Bernier as his backup, they easily make up one of the best goaltending tandems in the NHL.
Quick leads the NHL in shutouts with four, and he boasts a .934 SV% as well as a 2.02 GAA.
His only weakness may be his wins, as he's won just half of the games he's played in.
Henrik Lundqvist, year in and year out, is one of the best goalies the NHL has to offer.
This year, with the Rangers being one of the NHL's best teams, Lundqvist has certainly not taken any time off, and he's finding himself right back in the Vezina race again.
Lundqvist has great numbers in three categories. His GAA is 2.15, while he has won 11 out of the 19 games he's played and stops 93.1 percent of the shots he sees.
Jimmy Howard has been outstanding for the Detroit Red Wings this season. Even when they went on an embarrassing six-game losing streak, Howard was giving them a chance to win every night.
With just a 1.88 GAA and a .929 SV%, Howard's stats are nothing short of amazing. Although his SV% is lower than the rest of the goaltenders listed, he makes up for it by having the most wins in the NHL with 15, and the fact that he started 17 games in a row should say a lot about his consistency and durability.
And until the Red Wings can find a new backup goalie or Ty Conklin can get his act together, the Wings will need Howard to play as well as he can, as much as he can.
Last year's Vezina winner was predicted by many to slow down after taking the Boston Bruins to their first Stanley Cup in nearly 40 years.
So far, that hasn't been the case. After a slow start with the Bruins, Thomas is back in the Vezina race again this year.
His stats look phenomenal again, as he posts a .940 SV%, has a 1.87 GAA, and has won 13 of the 18 games he's played. He also has stopped every shootout attempt so far this season.
Jordan Matthews writes for the NHL and for the Detroit Red Wings. For more coverage, you can read some of his recent articles here:
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