With the 2013-14 regular season rapidly coming to a close, NHL.com looks at some of its biggest storylines and award contenders.
Until last season, the Vezina Trophy belonged to the veterans of the goaltending position for much of the past two decades.
Goalie - BOS
GAA: 2.04 | SVP: 0.930
Starting with Dominik Hasek
's first victory in 1994, there was an 18-season period where only twice did someone younger than 29 win the Vezina (Jim Carrey was 21 in 1996 and Jose Theodore
was 25 in 2002). Sergei Bobrovsky
won in his age-24 season in 2013, and it's likely someone is going to make it two in a row for the 28-and-under crowd this season.
The top six goaltenders in save percentage with at least 42 starts all are 27 years old or younger.
Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask sat and watched when one of those veterans, Tim Thomas, claimed the Vezina and the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2011, and the 27-year-old might have a chance to repeat the award double three years later. Rask leads all goalies with more than 41 starts in save percentage at .929 and is third in goals-against average at 2.06.
Rask has been consistent all season, with one full month of work (January) at a save percentage below .927. That month was after defenseman Dennis Seidenberg was injured and the Bruins dipped as a team as they adjusted to life without their German tank on the back end.
The team rebounded and Rask has helped it surge towards a possible Presidents' Trophy while making the Bruins the consensus favorite in the Eastern Conference. Though save percentages on special teams can fluctuate (ask the Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals about that), Rask leads all goalies who have played more than 20 games in even-strength save percentage at .941, and he leads the other Vezina candidates by a sizable margin.
Rask is the likely winner of the Vezina Trophy, and should the Bruins reach the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in four seasons he'll have a chance to add a Conn Smythe Trophy to his resume as well.
Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche
Varlamov had stretches where he looked like a future Vezina candidate earlier in his career with the Capitals, but consistency, particularly with the technical side of the position, eluded him. With the help of Francois Allaire and Patrick Roy, Varlamov put together a healthy, consistent season and refined his technical play to complement the world-class athleticism he possesses for the position.
The 25-year-old has a .927 save percentage (.932 at even strength) and has been a workhorse for the Avalanche, leading the League in shots faced and saves. Given Colorado's desire to finish ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks and earn home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Varlamov could have a chance to finish as the League leader in games played and minutes played.
Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
Goalie - TBL
GAA: 2.23 | SVP: 0.924
The second spot pretty much is a dead heat between the 27-year-old Bishop and Carey Price
, 26, of the Montreal Canadiens
. Price has a .925 save percentage while Bishop checks in at .924; at even strength Bishop has a .932 save percentage and Price is at .931.
These two goalies likely will face each other in the first round of the playoffs as their teams are continuing to jostle for second place in the Atlantic Division. Trying to pick between the two based on the strength of the teams in front of them isn't easy either. Bishop gets the nod here because he's started five more games, even if Price had faced two more shots after play Monday.
Bishop might earn some extra votes because he's a better story with this being a breakout season, but Price's value to the Canadiens should not be understated. Both of them deserve to be finalists, but it is likely only one gets the trip to Las Vegas.