Vezina Trophy Finalists: Ben Bishop vs. Tuukka Rask vs. Semyon Varlamov

Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins and Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche are the three finalists for the 2013-14 Vezina Trophy, which is awarded "to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at his position," the National Hockey League announced on Friday.

The NHL’s 30 general managers vote on this award, because if there’s anyone that knows that goaltending makes or breaks a team, it’s them. OK, maybe outside of Paul Holmgren.

None of these finalists have been finalists before, although Rask finished fourth in the voting last season.

Which goalie will take home the Vezina?

Why Ben Bishop Deserves The Vezina

From the NHL:

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.

Being that the Vezina is a de facto MVP award for goalies, Bishop earned enough support to finish ahead of Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens, whom many felt was neck and neck with him for a nomination.

Why Tuukka Rask Deserves The Vezina

From the NHL:

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.

Along with Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron, the third member of the Holy Trinity of Bruins Defense. Rask led all goalies with at least 25 starts with a .941 even strength save percentage. ‘Twas a time when he might have been seen as a product of the Bruins’ defensive system; last postseason and this regular season helped convince many that it thrives thanks to his play.

Why Semyon Varlamov Deserves The Vezina

From the NHL:

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.

Varlamov’s transformation from good goalie to Vezina finalist coincides with the arrival of Patrick Roy as head coach and Francois Allaire as goalie coach in Colorado. They found a way to give Varlamov a fundamental base to go along with his raw athleticism, and the results were stunning: There was something Hasek-ian at times about his play, backstopping the Avs to a division title despite playing in back of a porous defense.

(Let’s also note that Varlamov’s off-ice issues didn’t seem to affect his candidacy.)

Who Wins The Vezina?

Rask. The Vezina’s always going to be a numbers-first award for the voters (who are really, really busy guys and usually can’t be bothered with context) and Rask’s numbers are the best in the game this season.

Our Ballot

Seeing as how no one’s hired us to run an NHL team (yet), we don’t have a vote on the Vezina. But here were our choices, in order, for NHL All-Star Team voting, and hence our top three for the Vezina.

1. Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche

2. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruin

3. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning

While Rask isn’t the product of the Bruins defense, he sure as hell benefitted from it. Varlamov on the other hand played behind a team that allowed 32.7 shots per game, which is Edmonton Oilers defense territory. Simply put, Varlamov was the best goalie we watched this season, and his career revival was so dramatic that people are actually reconsidering Greg Sherman’s fleecing at the hands of the Capitals when Varlamov was acquired. (He still gave up a lottery pick for an RFA the Capitals weren’t going to re-sign. So the fleecing stands.)

It wouldn’t shock us if Price and Henrik Lundqvist were fourth and fifth respectively. Unless the Jonathan Bernier sympathy party lands him in the top five.

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