One guy has been the leader in the Vezina Trophy race all season and there's no reason to knock him off his well-deserved pedestal now.
has been from start to finish the best goalie in the NHL this season. It's why he was named by NHL.com as the Vezina Trophy leader at the quarter-mark, the halfway point and the three-quarter mark of the season.
The runner-ups changed at each turn but the leader never did, and never should have either. Here's why:
Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins
-- Thomas was so good this season he set an NHL record. His .938 save percentage was one hundredth of a percentage point better than Dominik Hasek
's 12-year-old NHL record of .937. Thomas also led the NHL with a 2.00 goals-against average and was second with 9 shutouts. He won 35 games despite appearing in only 57, at least three and as many as 17 fewer than everybody else who won more games this season.
Thomas started the season with a 29-save shutout of the Phoenix Coyotes
in Prague. He gave up only five goals in winning his first seven starts. He didn't lose until Nov. 13, and even then it was by a 2-0 margin -- he made 31 saves. From then on Thomas was brilliant. He went winless in as many as four straight starts only one time. He lost back-to-back games in regulation only twice. He had three different winning streaks of at least four games, including one that reached five and, of course, his season-opening run of seven in a row.
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators:
You don't have to click off NHL.com's home stats page to find out how good of a season Rinne had for the Predators. Like Thomas, there he is among the top five in goals-against average (2.12), save percentage (.930) and shutouts (6). Vancouver's Roberto Luongo
is the only other goalie to be listed in the top five in as many as three of the four statistical categories represented. However, Rinne played for the 21st-ranked offensive team in the League, so his margin for error was much slimmer than most. It was even slimmer than Thomas'.
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers:
Lundqvist put the Rangers on his back as soon as backup Martin Biron
went down with a season-ending injury on Feb. 28 and carried them into the playoffs. He finished in the top 10 in every major statistical category for goaltenders, including wins, GAA, save percentage, shutouts, appearances and minutes played. He led the League with 11 shutouts. Lundqvist was at his best in the final month and a half of the season when he didn't have Biron to cushion any fall. He started 26 straight games to close the season and won 11 of his last 16 starts to help the Rangers clinch a playoff berth.
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