Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask obviously was thrilled when he walked up to the podium in Las Vegas in June to accept the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the top player at his position.
The 27-year-old won 36 games and led the Bruins to the Presidents' Trophy, one point ahead of the Anaheim Ducks atop the League standings. Rask played a career-high 58 games and had a 2.04 goals-against average, .930 save percentage and a League-best seven shutouts.
"It's a team game and you can't really win the trophy by yourself," Rask said. "By saying that, you really don't rob the whole season. You play good, but I don't consider myself that I robbed a lot of games. I like to give our team a chance to win but still a big part of it goes to the team, that's for sure."
There's no disputing the fact Rask plays behind a very talented team, from defenseman Zdeno Chara to center Patrice Bergeron. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Rask has it in him to win the Vezina for a second straight season.
We believe he does.
The Bruins are moving on without right wing Jarome Iginla after he opted to sign with the Colorado Avalanche as a free agent, but Boston's roster still is deep enough to compete for the Stanley Cup. With Rask as the last line of defense, the Bruins should enjoy another 50-win season and their No. 1 goaltender will secure many of them. If he comes close to matching the numbers he posted in the other three key departments (GAA, save percentage and shutouts), it should be enough to win the Vezina again.
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens -- The 27-year-old is coming off a tremendous season (34-20-5, 2.32 GAA, .927 save percentage, six shutouts) and could be on the verge of superstardom. His injury in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers was too much for the Canadiens to overcome, but they still gave an admirable effort during the six-game series. With a healthy Price back in the mix, Montreal should lock up one of the three automatic playoff bids in the Atlantic Division and be capable of going on another serious run.
"We've got so much confidence when he's in that net. It's unbelievable," forward Dale Weise told the Canadiens website. "You could see the vibe on our team, no matter how we play. We don't want to play on our heels, but he's such a good goaltender. I think he's the best in the world.
"Our team just feeds off Carey's energy. It's a credit to just how hard he works. He works extremely hard in practice. He takes every shot seriously. He plays out on every rebound. That's definitely what puts him in the upper-echelon of goaltenders."
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings -- After helping Los Angeles win the Stanley Cup for the second time in three seasons, Quick had wrist surgery in June but is back on the ice and eager to help make the Kings a dynasty. A groin injury sidelined Quick for 24 games last season between November and January, but he finished the regular season with a 2.07 GAA and six shutouts in 49 games. He then started all 26 Stanley Cup Playoff games, winning 16 while posting a 2.58 GAA and .911 save percentage.
"Because I'm late getting on the ice this summer as opposed to other summers, you feel like you have a little more ground to make up," Quick said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "And you're trying to get as much accomplished on the ice every day as you can."
ALSO IN THE MIX: Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers; Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning; Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars