Puck Daddy - NHL

That Ryan Miller(notes) of the Buffalo Sabres and Ilya Bryzgalov(notes) of the Phoenix Coyotes were named finalists for the Vezina Trophy on Monday wasn't a surprise, a stunner or all that debatable.

But we imagine Martin Brodeur's(notes) inclusion in the top three will have its detractors.

First, because it'll revive the usual charges that the award nominations are reputation-based (and they are, as Brodeur could tell you from 1994-Hasek's retirement) and that it's the Devils' system being nominated and not the guy who makes it work.

Second, because despite Brodeur's historic achievements this season, goalies like Tomas Vokoun(notes) of the Florida Panthers, Craig Anderson(notes) of the Colorado Avalanche and even Jimmy Howard(notes) of the Detroit Red Wings could have been given serious consideration for the third slot.

We happen to think the NHL's general managers voted correctly here, and that all three Vezina finalists have a case to make for the award:

Why Miller Deserves The Vezina: Wait, are you kidding? Didn't you see the Olympics?

OK, seriously: That tournament should have no influence on what Miller did or didn't do in the NHL regular season ... but that's wishful thinking, isn't it? There may very well have been a vote or seven cast for Miller as a tribute to the sum total of his accomplishments, which is a bit like giving Ed Helms an Emmy for "The Office" based on his work in "The Hangover."

Fact is that Miller doesn't need the Olympic aura to justify support for the Vezina. His case is rather solid: Second in the NHL in goals against average (2.22) and in save percentage (.929) in 68 starts; fourth in wins (41) for a division champion. Statistically, it was the best season of his NHL career.

One more key stat: 2,098, as in the number of shots faced during the season. Miller was fourth behind Craig Anderson, Evgeni Nabokov(notes) and Henrik Lundqvist(notes). He faced 137 more shots than Bryzgalov in the same number of games.

Why Bryzgalov Deserves The Vezina: The common perception is that Bryzgalov was playing behind the "worst" of the three teams who have Vezina finalists this season, at least on paper. That he carried the Coyotes to a stunning playoff berth with an MVP season between the pipes, and that the stats also validate him as the League's top netminder.

The question is whether there are enough GMs that agree with that sentiment.

He's got the numbers: 2.29 GAA, good for sixth in the League; .920 save percentage, which is ninth overall but just 0.04 percent from being fourth; and 42 wins, which is third in the League and more than Miller's total. He also has one significant edge over Miller with eight shutouts to the Sabres goalie's five.

Either keeper is worthy of the award. But there's another dude with a case for winning it as well ...

Why Brodeur Deserves The Vezina: The voters like a winner in this race, and Brodeur led the League with 45 victories. His GAA (2.24) was third in the NHL, and just 0.01 behind Miller. His nine shutouts led the NHL.

His .916 save percentage, however, is a black-eye stat, putting him in Cam Ward's(notes) neighborhood rather than Miller's or Bryzgalov's. And Brodeur faced an average of 26 shots per game in 76 starts; compare that to over 30 for Miller, and the usual "it's the Devils system" knocks will enter into the equation, especially with Jacque Lemaire chewing gum behind the bench again.

The Winner Is ... Miller, unless Brodeur siphons enough Eastern Conference support and the West goes heavy for Bryzgalov, which is an entirely plausible scenario. But voting predictions aside, Miller has the numbers and the value that warrants the Vezina. It should be his.

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