All three 2015 Vezina Trophy candidates made it to the first round of the playoffs, but only two of those three goaltenders have made it past the first round. With the Nashville Predators out of the Stanley Cup, losing to the Chicago Blackhawks four games to two, Vezina nominee Pekka Rinne is now on holidays. The 32-year-old Finn had a great regular season, ending it with a record of 41-17-6, but in the playoffs, Rinne was only able to pull off two wins before Chicago shut the door on Nashville.
That leaves two top-shelf goalies left to watch as the armchair coaches debate who will win the Vezina, the trophy given by a vote of the NHL’s general managers for the goaltender judged best at his position. In winning their first rounds, those two goaltenders both stood on their heads, as the saying goes, and their skills make for extremely exciting hockey.
Carey Price, the 27-year-old from Anahim Lake, B.C, wears #31 for the Montreal Canadiens. Drafted 5th overall in the 2004 draft by the Canadiens, Price’s mantlepiece is already cluttered with awards for the 2014-15 season. He co-won the William M. Jennings Trophy for letting in the least amount of goals in the regular season — an award he is sharing with the Chicago Blackhawks’ 30-year old Corey Crawford (#50). Price also won the Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award for best save percentage – another regular season award – with a save percentage of .933. Price’s regular season placed him first among goalies, with 44 wins out of 66 played, and a 1.96 goals against average.
There is little doubt that Price is a worthy Vezina Trophy nominee, but the final game against the Ottawa Senators in the first round shows what an exceptional player Price is. Deep in the 3rd period, with the Canadiens up one goal to none, 19-year-old Swede Jacob De La Rose took a two minute minor for tripping. With De La Rose in the box, and the Senators dominating play, pounding Price with shot after shot on goal, their goalie was pulled with 1:45 left to play — and around 30 seconds left on the penalty. That made the Senators 6 on 4 and despite having great scoring opportunities, Price was able to shut them down. In the series against the Sens, Price had only one “off” game where the Senators gave a spanking to the Canadiens in a 5-1 win. Despite the Sens’ ability to score, in that game Canadiens’ coach Michel Therrien did not make any goaltending changes, and Price stayed in all 60 minutes.
In Round One of the playoffs, the Senators were able to make 198 shots on Price, who saved all but 12. Going into Round Two for the Canadiens – in a matchup that will be against either the Detroit Red Wings or the Tampa Bay Lightning, depending on which team wins that series. Price will start that series with a .939 playoff save percentage – even more impressive than what he already achieved in the regular season.
Drafted 14th overall in the 2004 draft, 28-year old Devan Dubnyk only became a goaltender worthy of superstar status at the end of the regular season after joining the Minnesota Wild in January, 2015. Dubnyk had played for the Edmonton Oilers for five seasons, where he even became their starting goalie, but after Edmonton, it looked like Dubnyk’s career was on the rails big time.
In the 2013-14 season, the Oilers traded him to the Nashville Predators, who let him play two games and then traded him to the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens sent him down to the Hamilton Bulldogs, their AHL farm team, where he finished the season, playing 8 games with them.
Dubnyk got a one-year contract with the Arizona Coyotes to be a backup goalie and started showing some of his former form when he was traded to the Wild. The Wild’s main goalie, Darcy Kuemper, was out with a lower body injury, and the Wild were having a dismal stretch, having lost 8 of their last 10 games. At that point, the Wild were 3rd last in the Western Conference, just ahead of the Edmonton Oilers and the Arizona Coyotes.
Dubnyk’s first game as a Wild was on January 15, 2015 and although it was against the Eastern Division’s bottom-feeding Buffalo Sabres, Dubnyk was able to pull off a shutout in the 7-0 win. He went on to have 4 more shutouts over the rest of the season, and went 27-9-2 in the regular season with a 1.78 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage.
In Round One of the Playoffs, the St. Louis Blues were able to throw 149 shots at him, and Dubnyk saved all but 13. His save percentage is now at .913 and his GAA is at 2.32 for when he and the Wild meet their next opponents in Round Two, the Chicago Blackhawks.
The NHL’s 30 general managers submitted their nominations for the Vezina Trophy at the end of the regular season. The winner of the trophy, named after the Montreal Canadiens’ beloved first goalie, Georges Vézina, will take place at the NHL Awards on June 24th, 2015 in Las Vegas. This year is the 3rd time that Pekka Rinne has been nominated for the trophy, but it’s the first time ever for both Carey Price and Devan Dubnyk.
Vézina, from Chicoutimi, Quebec, played 326 consecutive games for the Canadiens until he collapsed on the ice during the first game of the 1925-26 season. Diagnosed with tuberculosis, Vézina made one last trip to the Canadiens dressing room to say goodbye to his teammates, and asked if he could take his jersey – the jersey he’d worn the year before when they won the Stanley Cup – back home with him to Chicoutimi. Four months later, Vézina died, and the owners of the Canadiens at the time donated the trophy named in his honour, to the NHL.