After his brilliant showing at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and his tremendous season-long play in leading the Buffalo Sabres to the Northeast Division title, there was little doubt when last season's NHL Awards rolled around that Ryan Miller would capture the Vezina Trophy as the League's best goaltender.
This season hasn't gone quite so smooth for Miller, both in terms of his health and the Sabres' play, and while he does his best to round back into form a number of candidates are emerging to try to wrest the Vezina away -- one has already won the award before, another is answering his doubters in a hockey hotbed and a third is looking to prove last season's heroics were no fluke.
The first quarter of the season has been marked by many great goaltending performances -- here is NHL.com writer Brian Hunter's take on who looks to be the most Vezina-worthy to this point.
Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins -- What a wild ride it's been for Thomas during the past 18 months. He's gone from winning the Vezina to losing the No. 1 job with the Bruins to Tuukka Rask to reclaiming the starting job and once again establishing himself as a dominant player at his position. Thomas currently leads the NHL in goals-against average (1.49) and save percentage (.954), and his 4 shutouts are tied for first. He also sports a stellar 10-1-1 record that has Boston challenging for first place in the Northeast Division.
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens -- Any questions about Price's composure or his intestinal fortitude are quickly being erased in Montreal, where the first-round draft pick has had his mettle tested following the trade of tag-team partner Jaroslav Halak to St. Louis. No longer is Price part of a timeshare, and he's seized the role as undisputed starter with gusto, playing in 20 of the Canadiens' 21 games and posting a 12-7-1 record with a 2.05 GAA (fourth in the NHL), .932 save percentage (third) and four shutouts, which tie him with Thomas for the League lead.
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings -- All those clamoring for the anointment of Jonathan Bernier as the next big thing in goal in L.A. are going to have to bide their time, because Quick is proving he doesn't plan to cede the starting job anytime soon. Coming off a 39-win season that set a new franchise mark, Quick may get a few extra nights off now that Bernier is in town as his backup, but he's made the most of every opportunity the Kings have given him. Quick is 11-3-0 with a 1.90 GAA (second in the NHL) and .931 save percentage (fifth).