To mark the three-quarters point of the 2017-18 season, NHL.com is running its fourth installment of the Trophy Tracker series this week. Today, we look at the race for the Vezina Trophy.
Andrei Vasilevskiy has been everything the Tampa Bay Lightning possibly could have expected and more as their No. 1 goaltender this season.
Vasilevskiy, who became the Lightning's starting goaltender when Ben Bishop was traded to the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 26, 2017, has shined in his first season as a full-time starter in the NHL. The 23-year-old leads the League in wins (37) and shutouts (seven) and has a 2.35 goals-against average and .927 save percentage in 52 games.
A panel of 19 NHL.com staff members voted for the winners of each major award after the third quarter of the season. Vasilevskiy is the overwhelming favorite to win the Vezina Trophy as the League's top goaltender with 17 first-place votes and 93 of a possible 95 voting points. Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators was second with one first-place vote and 51 points, and Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets was third with 49 points. Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins had one first-place vote and was fourth with 46 points.
Vasilevskiy's play has been a big reason why the Lightning are at the top of the League standings with 89 points.
Video: TBL@MTL: Vasilevskiy makes big save on Lehkonen in OT
"I'm having so much fun so far," Vasilevskiy told the Tampa Bay Times recently. "But it's a long season."
A heavy workload hasn't impacted Vasilevskiy; he's started 51 of 63 games for Tampa Bay this season. Vasilevskiy played 50 games last season.
"I'm young, so I can handle it," Vasilevskiy said. "It's more difficult for my mind. There are a lot of things that appear in your mind. You've got to handle it, be prepared. You can't think, if you win a couple games, you can't think you'll win the next game for sure. I've got to be tough mentally."
Forward Nikita Kucherov, who leads the NHL with 82 points (33 goals, 49 assists), has been impressed with Vasilevskiy's ability to stay focused when things aren't going well during a game.
"He's really mentally strong," Kucherov said. "He gives up a goal, he stays calm. Doesn't matter if we're down 2-0, he still thinks it is 0-0. He doesn't think about it.
Video: TBL@MTL: Vasilevskiy dazzles in net to seal SO win
"I knew he was going to be good. I didn't know he was going to be unbelievable."
Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis): Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning, 93 points (17 first-place votes); Pekka Rinne, Predators, 51 (one first-place vote); Connor Hellebuyck, Jets, 49; Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins, 46 (one first-place vote); Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs, 23; Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights, 14; Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets, 3; John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks, 3; Carter Hutton, St. Louis Blues, 2; Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings, 1