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Trophy Tracker

Vasilevskiy early favorite for Vezina Trophy

Lightning goalie's dominant start makes him panel's top choice through first quarter

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

To mark the completion of the first quarter of the season, which arrived Tuesday, is running its second installment of the Trophy Tracker series this week. Today, we look at the race for the Vezina Trophy.

The Tampa Bay Lightning had full confidence Andrei Vasilevskiy could be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL, evidenced by their willingness to trade Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 26.

"I already know this season it's going to be more on me," Vasilevskiy told the Lightning website in August. "It's going to be more responsibility for me."

Vasilevskiy has rewarded the faith with a dominant start to this season, which included a string that saw him win a Lightning record nine consecutive starts from Oct. 9-30.

A panel of 18 staff members voted for the winners of each major award after the first quarter of the season. Though it wasn't unanimous, Vasilevskiy is the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy as the League's top goaltender with 70 points and seven first-place votes. Jonathan Quick of the Kings was second with 55 points and Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets was third with 53.

Video: NYI@TBL: Vasilevskiy stretches to deny Cizikas, Ladd

Vasilevskiy's play has eased the Lightning's pain of trading Bishop, who signed a six-year, $29.5 million contract with the Dallas Stars on May 12 after they acquired him from the Kings three days earlier. He could have become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

"I'm so happy for him right now, proud of him," Bishop told the Lightning website. "He's kind of like a little brother almost. It's fun to see him doing so well. To think that he'd be [14-2-1] right now, I don't know if I saw that coming. But he's worked so hard to get here. It's good to see that work pay off. He definitely deserves it.

"He's always been one of the hardest-working guys I've met. He was a good listener too. He wanted to learn. He was always asking questions and things like that. It's fun to see him doing this well. I think people are surprised around the League, but anybody that's known him the last couple years isn't surprised. You could see this coming. I'm really happy for him."

Entering games Wednesday, Vasilevskiy, 23, led the NHL in wins (14), and his .928 save percentage trails only Bobrovsky and Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks among goalies who have started at least 15 games. Vasilevskiy has one shutout this season.

Vasilevskiy is 26-6-3 in his past 35 starts since to Feb. 27, one day after Bishop was traded.

Video: DAL@TBL: Vasilevskiy pushes across to deny a PPG

"If there's one thing, the kid doesn't quit," Lightning coach Jon Cooper told the Tampa Bay Times. "He's never out of a save. We're early into the season, but there are at least three or four already this year where you say, 'Oh that's in the net,' and then it is not. He defines battling."

Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis): Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning, 70 points, (seven first-place votes); Jonathan Quick, Kings, 55 points; Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets, 53 points; Corey Crawford, Blackhawks, 26 points; Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets, 21 points; Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators, 16 points; Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks, 12 points; Mike Smith, Calgary Flames, 6 points; Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals, 4 points; Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild, 3 points; Matt Murray, Pittsburgh Penguins, 2 points; Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings, 2 points.

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