Finalists for the Vezina Trophy awarded to "the goaltender adjudged best at his position" were announced this morning and the Lightning's own Ben Bishop made the list, along with Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins and Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche. It's a high honor indeed for a guy who came into the season as essentially an unknown quantity. The Vezina is voted on by the league's General Managers.
Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
Bishop set multiple franchise records in backstopping the Lightning to a second-place finish in the Atlantic Division in his first season as a starter. He became the Lightning's all-time leader for wins in a season with his 31st on Mar. 15 against New Jersey and finished the season ranked fourth in the NHL with 37. Bishop also set a franchise mark in save percentage (.924). He tied for fourth in the League in shutouts (five) and placed seventh in goals-against average (2.23). Bishop is a Vezina Trophy finalist for the first time and the first Tampa Bay netminder to be nominated for the award.
Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
Rask posted a 36-15-6 record, highlighted by a career-best 10-game point streak from Mar. 20-30 (9-0-1), as the Bruins captured their first Presidents' Trophy since 1990 and led the Eastern Conference in team defense (2.08 GA/game). He allowed two goals or fewer in 37 of 58 starts, set single-season highs in wins and appearances, and was the only goaltender to rank among the NHL's top five in each of the major statistical categories: first in shutouts (seven), second in save percentage (.930), fourth in goals-against average (2.04) and fifth in wins. Rask is a first-time Vezina finalist.
Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche
Varlamov led the NHL and set a franchise record with 41 victories, surpassing Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy's previous single-season high of 40 in 2000-01, and joins Roy (1996-97) as the only goaltenders in club history to top the League in wins. He ranked first in the NHL in shots faced (2,013) and saves (1,867) and thrived under the heavy workload, posting a 7-1-1 mark when facing 40 or more shots and going 32-4-4 when facing 30-plus shots. Varlamov is a Vezina finalist for the first time and the first Avalanche goaltender nominated for the award since Roy was runner-up to Montreal's Jose Theodore in 2001-02.
This is a nice way to cap off a stellar season for the netminder, and it is a well-deserved honor for him and the team. this has been an especially up and down season for Bishop, who miss three stints with injuries, the final one including the playoffs. He was also dealing with a nagging wrist injury throughout the second half of the season.
The winner and vote totals will be announced on June 24, at the NHL Awards show in Las Vegas. It is unlikely, however, that Bishop will walk away with the trophy, which by every reasonable standard should go to Tuukka Rask.