To mark the three-quarters point of the season, NHL.com is running its fourth installment of the Trophy Tracker series this week. Today, we look at the race for the Vezina Trophy, given to the best goalie in the NHL as voted by the general managers of all NHL teams.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, much like his Tampa Bay Lightning teammates, needed extra time to rebound following a 2018-19 season when the Lightning won 62 games only to be swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference First Round.
Vasilevskiy allowed at least three goals 11 times in his first 19 starts this season. Following a 5-4 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Dec. 5, when he allowed five goals on 21 shots, the Lightning were 13-10-3 and fighting to be in Stanley Cup Playoff position.
Less than three months later, Vasilevskiy is at the forefront of Tampa Bay's resurgence. He had a Lightning-record 21-game point streak from Dec. 17 to Feb. 15 (19-0-2), putting the them in prime position to at least have home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Lightning trail the Boston Bruins by seven points for first in the Atlantic Division.
As such, a panel of 18 NHL.com writers voted for the winner of the Vezina Trophy after three-quarters of the season, and the consensus was Vasilevskiy has been the League's top goalie by a significant margin: He received 75 points and 11 first-place votes. Tuukka Rask of the Bruins finished second with 63 points and five first-place votes.
"He's been huge," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said of Vasilevskiy, who won the Vezina Trophy last season. "He kind of took it to heart at the beginning of the year and was really grinding away and you see why he is the best goalie in the League. We see the work he puts in behind the scenes and he's getting rewarded now with just how solid he's been."
Video: Tuukka Rask playing like Vezina Trophy front-runner
Vasilevskiy leads the NHL with 32 wins in 47 starts. He has a 2.61 goals-against average, a .915 save percentage and two shutouts.
"He's the best goalie in the League, in my opinion," Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman said. "Some of those saves he makes are ridiculous. Sometimes you don't expect to see those out of him, but at the same time you are not surprised. He's never out of a play, and so quick. He's just unbelievable."
Vasilevskiy helped the Lightning have two winning streaks that reached double digits, allowing them to get back in the Atlantic Division race. They won 11 straight from Jan. 29 to Feb. 17 (he allowed two goals or fewer six times), after a 10-game run from Dec. 23 to Jan. 11 (Vasilevskiy had back-to-back shutouts in the final two games of that streak).
"He's our backbone back there, and if they do get through our line of defense, he's there to make a save for us," Lightning forward Anthony Cirelli said. "He's been spectacular and a big reason why we've been successful."
Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis): Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning, 75 points (11 first-place votes); Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins, 63 points (five first-place vote); Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars, 49 points (one first-place vote); Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins, 29 points; Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets, 17 points; Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks, 15 points; Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues, 11 points (one first-place vote); Elvis Merzlikins, Columbus Blue Jackets, 9 points; Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1 point; Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers, 1 point
NHL.com independent correspondent Corey Long contributed to this story