A towering presence in Tampa's net, Ben Bishop
's divine play was sorely missed in the playoffs. (Icon SMI)
The NHL announced on Friday morning that 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 award is voted on by the general managers of the league's 30 clubs, with the top three vote-getters designated as finalists.
The winner will be announced on Tuesday,June 24.
Here's what the NHL has to say about the three standout stoppers:
Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
The towering goaltender set multiple franchise records in backstopping the Lightning to a second-place finish in the Atlantic Division during his first season as a starter. He became the Tampa Bay's all-time leader for wins in a season with his 31st on March 15 against New Jersey and finished the season ranked fourth in the NHL with 37 victories. Bishop also set a franchise mark for save percentage (.924). He tied for fourth in the league with five shutouts and placed seventh in goals-against average (2.23). Bishop is a Vezina Trophy finalist for the first time and the first Lightning nominee for the award since Daren Puppa placed third in 1996.
Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
The Boston backstop posted a 36-15-6 record, highlighted by his career-best 10-game points streak from March 20 to 30 (9-0-1) as the Bruins captured their first Presidents’ Trophy since 1990 and led the Eastern Conference in team defense (2.08 goals-against per game). Rask allowed two goals or fewer in 37 of his 58 starts, set single-season highs in wins (36) and appearances (58), 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. He is a first-time Vezina finalist.
Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche
Varlamov led the NHL and set a Colorado franchise record with 41 victories, surpassing Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy’s previous single-season high of 40 in 2000-01. He joins Roy (1996-97) as the only goaltenders in club history to top the league in wins. Varlamov ranked first in the NHL in shots faced (2,013) and saves (1,867), and thrived under his heavy workload, posting a 7-1-1 mark when facing 40 or more shots and going 32-4-4 when facing 30-plus. He 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.
We say: The limp resistance the Lightning put up in their opening round sweep by the Montreal Canadiens illustrates how important Bishop was to Tampa Bay's success this season. Varlamov? He only backstopped the Avs to a worst-to-first season while playing behind a defense that prominently featured castoffs like Nate Guenin, Andre Benoit and Nick Holden.
Forget the Vezina. These guys are ready to pass a Vatican miracle confirmation test.
But that doesn't mean they'll win the award. Rask, after all, was at a different level this season both in terms of consistency and technical proficiency. And before you dock him as a beneficiary of Boston's ruthless defensive scheme, remember this: just two of their regular backliners, Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk, had as much as one full NHL season on their resume. With the loss of Dennis Seidenberg midway through the campaign, the B's were forced to lean on youngsters Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller and Matt Bartkowski.
While the kids embarked on their journey of learning, it was Rask who carried them and not the other way around. And he put up the best numbers of any starter in the league in the process.
Rask fought hard to climb out from under the shadow of his former partner, Tim Thomas, and establish himself as an elite No.1 goalie on his own. This year he got it done. He deserves the hardware.
More awards picks: Hart | Calder | Selke | Norris | Byng | Masterton | Messier