The Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist, the Kings' Jonathan Quick and the Predators' Pekka Rinne have been named finalists for this year's Vezina Trophy, awarded "to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at his position" as voted by the general managers of each of the 30 clubs.
The winner will be announced at the 2012 NHL Awards Show, June 20 at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas.
Lundqvist, already considered one of the elite goalies in the League, had perhaps his best season. He won a career-best 39 games while playing just 62, the fewest since his rookie season. He also had career-bests this season with a 1.97 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. He was in the top four in the League in wins, GAA, save percentage and shutouts (eight).
"It's a great feeling," Lundqvist said. "I'm really proud and honored to be with those names. It's been a year with a lot of good goalies, so to be up there, it's a great feeling. I take a lot of pride in that, but my teammates should feel good about it because it is about teamwork. Without them there would be no way I'd be up there."
With Lundqvist at his best, the Rangers finished atop the Eastern Conference for the first time since the 1993-94 season.
"He is the backbone of our team, always has been," Rangers coach John Tortorella told Newsday. "He is one of the strongest competitors that I've seen as an athlete. Sometimes as a goalie, you don't see it. With him, you do."
It's the fourth time for Lundqvist as a Vezina finalist. He was third in the voting each year from 2006-08. The only Rangers goalie to win the award since GMs began voting on it in 1982 was John Vanbiesbrouck in 1986.
No player in the League was as valuable to his team as Quick was to the Kings. Starting a personal-best 69 games, he had 35 of the team's 40 wins this season. He led the League with 10 shutouts, was second with a 1.95 GAA and fifth with a .929 save percentage.
His accomplishments came with almost no margin for error, as the Kings were 29th in the League in scoring at 2.29 goals per game. And while he had 34 losses in regulation, overtime or shootouts, the Kings scored two goals or fewer in 15 of them, and one goal or less in nine.
"It's a tremendous honor to be put in a category with Hank [Lundqvist] and Pekka," Quick said. "They're two great goalies in this League, well-respected goalies. To be put in the same category as those two, it's a tremendous honor. … It's something that a lot of hard work was put into and it's a credit to the way the guys played in front of me all year. Being a goaltender, it's a position where you're more dependent on your teammate than any other position in sports. For your goalie to be put in a category like that, that means these guys are doing a tremendous job for me, which they've done all year."
Thanks to Quick's play, the Kings were able to snag the final playoff spot in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
"He's not just our best player, he's our most consistent," Kings captain Dustin Brown told the National Post. "The quiet confidence filters down to the rest of the players. It's huge."
Quick is the first goalie in Kings history to finish in the top three in Vezina voting. The best previous finish was Kelly Hrudey's fourth-place finish in 1991.
Rinne signed a seven-year contract extension in November, and showed this season why he was so deserving of the richest deal in franchise history.
The League's workhorse goaltender -- no goalie played more than his 73 games -- Rinne led the League with 43 wins. He was seventh with a .923 save percentage while facing the most shots in the League (2,153). He also had a 2.39 GAA and five shutouts.
"It's great," Rinne said. "I was positively surprised. I'm just … I can't believe it. It's the second time [as a finalist]. I never would have believed it growing up. I feel very fortunate. At the same time I realize I play behind a really good team. And even though it's an individual award, it's still also … as a goalie you realize you need your teammates and you need their help."
With Rinne in goal, the Predators finished fourth in the Western Conference with 104 points, their best season since 2006-07.
Predators goalie coach Mitch Korn told the Tennessean that the last time he saw a goalie play as well as Rinne was Dominik Hasek, who he coached in Buffalo in four of his six Vezina-winning seasons.
"The two of them are very comparable in that they're busy goalies, they like being busy and they're who the team relies on," Korn said. "That's why Pekka was a Vezina Trophy nominee a year ago … and Hasek was for a number of years.
"That's what top guys do -- they make good teams very good."
Rinne was a finalist for the award last year; the previous best finish for a Predators goalie had been Tomas Vokoun's fourth-place result in 2006.
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK