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Rask, Price at the Top of Vezina Trophy List

Craig Anderson has had a tremendous start to the 2013 lockout-shortened National Hockey League season. Corey Crawford has been good, too. Martin Brodeur has looked like the Martin Brodeur of 2002.

However, as good as they’ve been, these goaltenders simply haven’t played enough. I have this thing about all athletes. In a limited number of games, anyone can put up good numbers. It’s about doing it over a reasonable period of time the separates the good ones from the imposters.

Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

Craig Anderson has done a wonderful in Ottawa, but he’s 8-4-2 on the season over only 15 games. Tuukka Rask, on the other hand, has gone 14-4-3 in 22 games. Anderson’s goal against average is a league best 1.49 while Rask’s is 1.90, but Rask has 1,295 minutes to Anderson’s 884. If Anderson stays hot and plays enough, he’ll get consideration, but right now, if you haven’t played in 20 of your team’s 30-32 games to date, you haven’t played enough to prove you’re the best on a night-to-night basis.

Anderson might be No. 1 in the stats and in line for the Jennings Trophy, but he hasn’t played in half of his team’s 32 games. When it comes to being called the best goaltender in the league for 2013, you must play at least two-thirds of your team’s game. You have to show your stuff and we have a list of guys who have done it most nights this season.

Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators

Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators

The reason the league added the Jennings Trophy was to allow itself to hand out a trophy to the team with the statistical leaders and a trophy to the guy who stood on his head no matter the situation. The Vezina Trophy is for the guy who is the most valuable goaltender in the NHL and to be handed that trophy, you have to play.

Here is a list of our Top 8 candidates for the Vezina Trophy as the best goaltender in the National Hockey League this season (with at least 20 games played to date).

Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

1. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins: In goals against, he’s No. 3 in the NHL this season (1.90). In wins, he’s No. 4 (14) and save percentage he’s No. 2 (1.90). Among goalies who have played at least 20 games, he’s first in goals against and save percentage. The Boston Bruins have a decent team, but they would not be 20-7-3 without Tuukka Rask. (Isn’t it amazing that no matter who plays goal in Boston, he’s usually pretty good and no matter who plays goal in Philadelphia, he’s usually pretty bad?).

Carey Proce, Montreal Canadiens.

Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens.

2. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens: Price is kid of the polar opposite of Rask. His numbers aren’t all that great, but he wins a lot of hockey games. He’s 25th in save percentage at .911, he’s 15th in goals against at 2.31, but he’s No. 1 in wins at 16-5-4. The guy just wins games. Period. He’s cool, in control and never panics. He’s the perfect netminder for a team like the Canadiens, the third highest scoring team in the East. And also a team that is 20-6-5.

3. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets: The classic example of a guy who doesn’t play all that well in Philadelphia, but once he leaves the town where all good goaltenders go to waste away, he becomes a star. On a weak club in Columbus, Bobrovsky is 11-7-5 with two shutouts. After a bad year in Philly in 2011-12, he’s been lights out this season. He has a goals against average of 2.17 and a save percentage of .927, third in the NHL. Last year in Philly, he was 14-10-2 with a goals against average of 3.02 and a save percentage of .899. Get ‘em out of Philly and these guys can play.

Nicklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild

Nicklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild

4. Nicklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild: Watched him shut out San Jose on Saturday afternoon and it was a masterpiece. He’s quick, sharp and, above all, healthy and he looked great against a good Sharks team with plenty of firepower. He’s 16-7-2 with a GAA of 2.23 and a save percentage of .921. That’s pretty good.

5. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers: Last year’s winner could still be this year’s winner with 18 games remaining, but he has to get his team into the playoffs. He’s 13-12-1 with a 2.22 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. He’s been good. His team? Not so much. If Lundqvist overcomes his own team, he could be the Vezina Trophy winner against this year.

Antti Niemmi, San Jose Sharks

Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks

6. Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks: The 29-year-old Finnish national team goalie is one of those classic, “big goalies.” He’s 6-foot-2, 210 pounds with a great glove hand and ability to get up and down quickly. This season he 12-8-5 with a .921 save percentage and a 2.27 goals against average. He’s another one of those guys who has, generally, been better the team around him.

Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

7.  Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators: The other Finnish national team goalie has been the Vezina Trophy runner-up the past two seasons. Like Niemi, he’s a big goalie – 6-foot-5, 205 pounds. A pure  butterfly-style netminder with plenty of quickness, Rinne has a 2.32 goals against average and a .911 save percentage on a team with barely any talents at all.

8. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins: Play for the high-scoring Penguins and you’ll often get lost on the stats of Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin. However, Fleury is a very good netminder who has become one of the steadiest in the game. He has a 2.38 GAA and a .912 save percentage and thanks to all that talent around him he’s 16-5-0 and tied for No. 1 in wins in the NHL.

Honorable Mention: Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings; Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars; Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals; Devan Dubnyk, Edmonton Oilers; Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg Jets.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

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