On Friday, the National Hockey League announced its three finalists for the Vezina Trophy. Awarded annually to the goaltender “adjudged to be the best at his position”, the Vezina Trophy is voted upon by the league’s 31 general managers and does not take playoff performance into consideration.
Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck, Boston’s Tuukka Rask, and Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy have been named the 2019-20 Vezina Trophy finalists. With two of the three having previously won the prestigious award (Rask in 2013-14 and Vasilevskiy in 2018-19), Hellebuyck is the lone nominee yet to see his name engraved on the trophy.
Hellebuyck, 27, helped Winnipeg land a spot in the NHL’s return-to-play Qualifying Round, despite little help from an injury-plagued defense corps throughout the majority of 2019-20, COVID-19 shortened season. He led all qualified goaltenders in shots faced (1,796), saves (1,656), and shutouts (six).
The Michigan product’s 31-21-5 record placed Hellebuyck second in wins league-wide (Vasilevskiy, 35). When facing 37+ shots, the former fifth-round draft pick (130th overall in 2012) went 10-1-2, while owning a .949 save percentage and 2.08 goals-against average. His overall .922 save percentage and 2.57 goals-against average was also among the league leaders.
Rask, 33, went 26-8-6 on the season while teaming up with counterpart Jaroslav Halak to help Boston to the William Jennings Trophy for the fewest goals allowed by one team on the season (167). His performance between the pipes has granted the Bruins a bye through the Qualifying Round, where his team will battle the Tampa Bay Lightning, Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals in a round robin-styled tournament for the overall Eastern Conference rankings.
Rask began the 2019-20 season as the hottest goaltender in the league, going 7-0-1 in his first eight starts. His 2.12 goals-against average is tops in the league, while his .929 save percentage placed him second amongst qualified goaltenders. He is part of a three-way tie for second place in shutouts with five, alongside Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury and Columbus’ Elvis Merzlikins. Rask’s six overtime losses are two off the league-high.
Vasilevskiy, 25, led the league with 35 victories and a 35-14-3 record on the season. He went 19-0-2 in a stretch of 21 games from mid-December to mid-February. His total time on ice (3,121:54) placed him third, just behind Carey Price and Connor Hellebuyck. His 1,472 save total also placed Vasilevskiy third across the league.
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Despite earning a league-high in wins, the back-to-back-to-back NHL victory leader did not post astonishing numbers in the save percentage and goals-against average departments, finishing outside the top-10 in both categories (.917 save percentage, 2.56 goals-against average). Vasilevskiy joined eight others with three shutouts. His Lighting teammates will join the Bruins, Capitals and Flyers in the Eastern Conference round-robin tournament in Toronto.
The 2019-20 season is Vasilevskiy’s third-straight as a finalist, while Hellebuyck has earned his second top-three finish in three seasons. 2017-18 saw Vasilevskiy and Hellebuyck fall to Nashville’s Pekka Rinne in a tight vote, before the now 25-year-old Lightning backstop took home the hardware following last year’s campaign (beating out Dallas’ Ben Bishop and New York’s Robin Lehner).
Following the previously announced Ted Lindsay, Jack Adams, Calder, Bill Masterton and Lady Byng finalists, Friday’s update pertaining to the Vezina Trophy will be followed by the reveal of finalists for the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award (July 17), the Selke (July 20), Norris (July 20) and Hart Trophy (July 21).
After having originally been scheduled for the June 18 NHL Awards in Vegas, the recipient of 2020’s top netminder award – along with all other major trophies – will be announced at some point during the Conference Finals. Exact dates, times and format have yet to be determined.