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Vezina Tracker: Rinne has been Nashville's backbone

by Dave Lozo
The National Hockey League reached the first-quarter mark this week of what has already been a memorable 2011-12 season. To celebrate, the staff is taking a look at the early favorites for each of the major NHL end-of-season trophies with the first installment of our Trophy Tracker feature. Stay tuned for updates as the season progresses. All statistics for this edition of the Trophy Trackers are as of games completed by Nov. 22.

Pekka Rinne
Goalie - NSH
RECORD: 10-4-4
GAA: 2.22 | SVP: 0.932
There are plenty of worthy candidates for the Vezina Trophy with the season now 25 percent complete. Some of the names are familiar ones (Tim Thomas), others are blasts from the past (Nikolai Khabibulin), and there are a couple of players no one expected to bounce back from sub-par play in recent seasons (Niklas Backstrom and Mike Smith).

As solid as those goaltenders have been, none make the cut for the Vezina finalists at this point of the season. There has been outstanding play between the pipes all across the League, but these are the three who deserve the most praise.


Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators -- There isn't a goaltender in the League who means more to his team than Rinne does to the Preds. Rinne leads the League in games played (18), minutes played (1,052:35) and shots faced (572) while the Preds sit in the middle of the pack offensively. His .932 save percentage is fifth among goalies making at least 10 starts; his 2.22 goals-against average is ninth. Those numbers are more impressive when you consider the Predators are allowing the third-most shots (33.1) per game in the NHL.


Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings --
The 25-year-old Quick finds himself in a similar situation to Rinne, only slightly less extreme. Quick has a 2.01 GAA and .931 save percentage on a team that's having a hard time scoring goals. He's tied for the League lead in shutouts with 3 and has started 17 of his team's 20 games. Rinne gets the slight edge with Quick facing about three less shots per game.

Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings -- It's been a roller-coaster start for the Red Wings, but Howard has been a rock throughout the turbulence. His 1.85 GAA ranks second only to Khabibulin among regular starters and his .930 save percentage is among the League leaders. Just like with Rinne and Quick, it's been up to Howard to carry the workload. He has started 16 games and also has 3 shutouts.

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