The 2011-12 season reaches its mid-point upon the completion of Monday night's game between the Washington Capitals and the Los Angeles Kings. But, NHL.com is going to take all week to look at the significant stories as the League makes the turn and heads toward the Stanley Cup Playoffs. We'll look at the races for the League's individual awards, while profiling some of the most surprising players and teams as we look ahead to the final three months of the season.
As we reach the halfway point of the 2011-12 season, it's evident that the battle for the Vezina Trophy is about as fluid and wide-open as any race for NHL hardware.
At the quarter-point of the season, this site named Pekka Rinne
as the League's best goaltender. His numbers -- 2.22 goals-against average, .932 save percentage -- showed he deserved that distinction while manning the net more frequently than most.
But his play recently has slipped. Rinne currently sports a 2.61 GAA and .917 save percentage. His 20 wins in 37 games prove he's excelling in the one category that matters most to goaltenders, but his dip in play has taken him out of the Vezina talk -- for now.
Goalie - NYR
GAA: 1.89 | SVP: 0.939
Who are the three favorites and unofficial winner at this point in the season? Let's take a look.
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers --
The Rangers' rise to the top of the NHL standings has been jump-started by the 29-year-old, who has been nominated for the Vezina three times but has yet to win it. His numbers for the season are excellent -- 18-7-4, 1.89, .939 -- and he's been even better recently. Since Dec. 1, Lundqvist is 8-3-1 with a 1.57 GAA and .947 save percentage.
Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins --
The reigning Vezina winner has numbers that almost are identical to Lundqvist's -- 17-7-0, 1.99, .938 -- but Thomas has made four fewer starts. Bruins backup Tuukka Rask
leads the NHL in GAA (1.49) and save percentage (.949), while making 13 starts. Rask's excellence means he'll cut into Thomas' workload and damage his chances of winning the Vezina against far busier goaltenders.
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings --
Speaking of busy goaltenders, only four have made more starts than Quick this season. The 25-year-old has made 35 starts and posted outstanding numbers -- 1.93, .934 -- for a team that ranks 30th in goals per game. Quick's 18-11-6 mark would be far better if the Kings could figure out how to score more goals, but he's been sensational while playing for a team that has the slimmest margin for error in the NHL.
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