On the night of Dec. 27, 2011, Craig Anderson of the Ottawa Senators was about as far away from a Vezina Trophy nomination as any goaltender in the NHL.
Nine months earlier, Anderson signed a four-year, $12.75 million contract, his first long-term deal after spending much of his career as a journeyman backup. He had one sensational season, with the Colorado Avalanche in 2009-10, but was traded to the Senators in 2011 for Brian Elliott, who was genuinely Vezina-worthy for the St. Louis Blues last season.
Goalie - OTT
GAA: 1.49 | SVP: 0.950
Two days after Christmas, in Anderson's first full season with the Senators, he was 15-12-3 with a 3.36 goals-against average and .895 save percentage.
But ever since picking up a win in relief in the Senators’ next game by stopping 17 of 17 shots, Anderson has been one of the best goaltenders in the League. He has carried over his strong second half of 2011-12 and Stanley Cup Playoffs, and is our Vezina winner for the first quarter of the 2012-13 season.
Anderson finished last season 18-10-3 with a 2.17 GAA and .933 save percentage and had a 2.00 GAA and .933 save percentage in Ottawa’s seven-game loss to the top-seeded New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
The 31-year-old has been even more dominant in 10 games this season, going 6-2-2 with a 1.49 GAA and .950 save percentage. He allowed two goals or fewer in his first eight games and gave up three goals total in his two regulation losses.
Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks -- There were question marks surrounding the 28-year-old after last year's letdown in the playoffs, but he's been phenomenal to start this season. He's 7-0-2 with a 1.62 GAA and .935 save percentage. He's played just two games at home, too.
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators -- The loss of defenseman Ryan Suter to free agency has done nothing to slow Rinne. The 30-year-old has kept the offensively challenged Predators afloat in the early going by holding opponents to two goals or fewer six times and one goal or fewer four times.