This morning, the NHL revealed the names of the three finalists for the 2011-2012 Vezina Trophy: Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers, Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings, and Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators. The first two came as no surprise to me, but I have to admit I thought Mike Smith of the Coyotes had made enough of a last minute impression to make his way onto the ballot. However, if it’s based on overall consistency throughout the season, Rinne is more than deserving of the nomination. This award for “the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at his position” is voted on by the NHL’s 30 general managers.
While there’s no doubt that Henrik Ludqvist and Pekka Rinne deserve this acknowledgement, I believe that Jonathan Quick deserves to win this award. If you follow hockey at all, you’ve heard his name a lot this season. You’ve probably heard that he was the first Kings goalie since the 80’s to make the All-Star team or that “he’s the only reason the L.A. Kings are in the playoffs,” and while those are true and important facts, there is more that you need to understand than that. Yes, I am a diehard Kings fan, but I believe that my support of Jonathan Quick for this award comes from an unbiased place. The fact that I’m taking the time to write what feels like a persuasive essay about it might be another story, but my opinion on who deserves this award is based on my genuine belief that Jonathan Quick was “the best at his position” over the other two goaltenders.
I watched SEVERAL Rangers and Predators games this season, enough to know that King Henrik is indeed a beast, and that all 6 ft, 5 inches of Pekka Rinne make it really difficult to bury a puck in the net. I also know that these two teams are in the top half of the league in goals scored, which certainly helps in winning games. The Los Angeles Kings however, finished the regular season in 29th place in the “average goals per game” category. So how does a team win games when they can’t score goals? Defense and goaltending, of course.
While the Kings unquestionably have a solid system when it comes to their defenseman, they were still second to last in the league in blocked shots (the Rangers were 4th overall). That means more work for Jonathan Quick. He set a few Kings franchise records this year for most wins in a season, longest shutout streak, and most shutouts in a season with 10, which was also the highest number in the league. He was second in the league in goals-against to Brian Elliott (who played only 38 games vs. Quick’s 69) with a 1.95 average, and was in the top 5 in the save percentage category with .929. Lundqvist had a 1.97 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage, while Rinne had a 2.39 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage.
I watched nearly every minute of every Kings game this season (Ok fine, I missed Kings @ Wild on March 31st, but only because Vegas hotel rooms don’t find Fox Sports West to be an important channel). Regardless, Jonathan Bernier was in net that game, so it doesn’t affect my argument. I’ve watched this team every step of the way this season. I’ve seen them struggle to score goals night after night, witnessed a bittersweet mid-season coaching change, and most importantly watched Jonathan Quick single-handedly earn wins for his team by shutting down the opposition on nights when every other player on the ice couldn’t seem to do anything right. He not only deserves the Vezina for carrying 20+ dudes on his back all season long, but a nod for the Hart Trophy should not be out of the question either. According to Adam Kimelman, clearly a very intelligent writer for NHL.com, “No player in the League was as valuable to his team as Quick was to the Kings.” That sort of sums up what the Hart Trophy is all about, right?
Although the outcome of playoffs will likely have an affect on who wins this award, my gut tells me it will come down to Lundqvist vs. Quick. In all honesty, you can’t go wrong with either. Lundqvist was in the top 5 of every goaltending category, he is the best player on the # 1 team in the Eastern Conference, and this is his 4th Vezina nomination. However, to reiterate, Quick had much less to work with, but managed to allow one goal or shut out the opposing team in 27 games and surrender only two goals or fewer 46 times.
My vote goes to JQ. Below are a few videos of Quick’s amazing saves from the season:
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