With three-quarters of the 2013-14 season complete, NHL.com looks at some of the biggest storylines and award contenders. Today we predict the winner of the Vezina Trophy, an annual award voted by general managers and presented to the NHL's best goaltender.
Ben Bishop is trying to follow in the skate tracks of Sergei Bobrovsky.
Bobrovsky came out of nowhere to win the Vezina Trophy in 2012-13, his first season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, after being traded by the Philadelphia Flyers the previous summer. Bishop, who was stuck in a goaltending logjam with the Ottawa Senators before being traded to Tampa Bay late last season, could be authoring a similar story in 2013-14.
Goalie - TBL
GAA: 2.00 | SVP: 0.932
He was far from an established No. 1 goaltender at the start of this season, but has become not only the starter but a star for the Lightning. Despite the absence of injured forward Steven Stamkos
since mid-November, the Lightning have remained one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, and Bishop is the biggest reason for their success.
Bishop is NHL.com's pick to win the Vezina Trophy with one-quarter of the season remaining.
Bishop has a .932 save percentage, which is best in the League among goalies with at least 30 games played and officially third on the NHL leaderboard. His 2.00 goals-against average is third, and he's tied for second with four shutouts.
The statistics are enough to show Bishop has been the best goaltender among those who have carried a starter's workload this season. The narrative of a goalie having a breakout season and helping a team into the Stanley Cup Playoffs despite the loss of a star player for a significant portion of the season won't hurt his chances either.
Tuukka Rask, Bruins: Rask has been the frontrunner for much of the season, but his numbers have dipped slightly. Part of the reason for that is the loss of defenseman Dennis Seidenberg to a season-ending knee injury.
The Finnish netminder is not far behind Bishop, with a 2.11 GAA and .928 save percentage. Rask also has a better defensive team in front of him, which could work as something of a tiebreaker in Bishop's favor if the two have similar statistics.
Boston reportedly is interested in adding a defenseman to help replace Seidenberg, and such a trade could help Rask's late-season push.
Ryan Miller, Sabres/Blues: Miller had a fantastic season for the undermanned Sabres, with a .923 save percentage despite facing a barrage of quality chances nightly. For comparison's sake, check out Miller's heat map with the ice track tool at sportingcharts.com [http://www.sportingcharts.com/nhl/icetrack/], and compare it with Rask's. Miller has faced a significantly higher number of shots from dangerous scoring areas.
His other numbers don't line up with top Vezina contenders, but Miller has kept a bad team in a lot of games it shouldn't have been. Now Miller is off to St. Louis to try to help the Blues secure a Central Division title then possibly a Stanley Cup.
A late-season trade typically isn't a good way to help someone's Vezina Trophy campaign, but a strong finish for the Blues could bolster Miller's candidacy. If he proves to be an upgrade and leads the Blues to the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, would that be enough for voters to consider him?