To mark the midway point in the season, NHL.com is running its third installment of the Trophy Tracker series this week. Today, we look at the race for the Vezina Trophy, the annual award given to the goalie judged to be the best as voted by the 31 NHL general managers.
The Toronto Maple Leafs breathed a collective sigh of relief when their No. 1 goalie, Frederik Andersen, was on the ice for practice Jan. 4.
"Everybody knows how great he is," Maple Leafs forward Kasperi Kapanen said of Andersen, who hasn't played since Dec. 22 because of a knee injury. Toronto is 3-3-0 since then.
Despite his time away, Andersen ranks second in the NHL with 20 wins and is in the top 10 in save percentage (.923) and goals-against average (2.50) among goalies who have played at least 20 games.
A panel of 20 NHL.com writers voted for the winner of the Vezina Trophy at the midway point of the season, and the consensus was that Andersen remains the League's top goalie. Andersen received 64 points (five first-place votes), two more than John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks.
Video: Vezina Trophy favorites at the halfway point
Andersen, who said the injury was lingering during the month of December, is hopeful the time off will prove to be beneficial in the long run. The Maple Leafs (27-13-2) have high hopes of winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1967.
"I think we're all aware of what time of year it is and making sure that we get this done the right way," Andersen said after returning to practice. "Just prepare for a long run, for a long time, for a long spring and summer.
"Once I feel back and playing well again and feeling like myself, I think hopefully I'll be back to playing like I did early in the year and helping the guys out getting wins. You never know … sometimes rest can be a blessing in disguise and we'll just see."
Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis): Frederik Andersen, Maple Leafs, 64 points (five first-place votes); John Gibson, Ducks, 62 points (five first-place votes); Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights, 54 points (five first-place votes); Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators, 48 points (four first-place votes); Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning, 34 points (one first-place vote); Jaroslav Halak, Boston Bruins, 12 points; Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars, 8 points; Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets, 5 points; Robin Lehner, New York Islanders, 4 points; Casey DeSmith, Pittsburgh Penguins, 3 points; Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings, 2 points; Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers, 2 points; Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets, 2 points.