The NHL has announced the finalists for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the best goaltender in the league as voted on by all 31 general managers. The finalists are Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Robin Lehner of the New York Islanders and Ben Bishop of the Dallas Stars.
This is second year in a row that the 24-year old Vasilevskiy has been among the finalists for the award, after once again leading the league in wins. Though he started just 53 games on the season due to injury, a .925 save percentage helped him compile a 39-10-4 record that included six shutouts. Vasilevskiy is arguably the most athletic young goaltender the league has seen in some time, but unfortunately wasn’t good enough to help the Lightning past the first round of the playoffs. The voting only takes regular season performance into account however, meaning he is certainly a strong candidate to take home the trophy for the first time in his career.
It’s hard to write a better comeback story than the one Lehner has penned (literally, at times) this season. The 27-year old goaltender did not receive a qualifying offer from the Buffalo Sabres last summer as the team decided to go in a different direction, meaning Lehner was left to sign a one-year, $1.5MM deal with the Islanders just for a chance at redemption. It wasn’t clear if he would even get a chance to start in New York given the fact that Thomas Greiss was still under contract. If Barry Trotz’ system was the biggest reason that the Islanders turned around their defensive woes, Lehner might have been next in line as he posted an incredible .930 save percentage in 46 games including six shutouts. He and Greiss—who had a .927 in 43 games and likely deserved some votes of his own—took home the Jennings Trophy as the goaltenders for the team with the lowest goals against average. It is the first time Lehner has ever received Vezina votes, let alone be named a finalist.
Speaking of comebacks, how about the 32-year old Bishop who was ushered out of Tampa Bay two years ago to make room for Vasilevskiy in the first place. The two-time Vezina finalist posted the best save percentage of his career this season, leading the entire league with a .934 mark. The 6’7″ netminder has battled through injuries the last few years including this one, but was outstanding for the Stars as they punched their ticket to the playoffs. With four more years on his contract the Stars would have been happy with more of the level he played at last season, but Bishop has always had more in the tank.