The Vezina Trophy is awarded at the conclusion of each NHL season to the goaltender that is voted best at that position by the general managers of the 30 NHL hockey clubs. The trophy is named for Georges Vezina, goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens from 1910-25. Vezina, a member of two Stanley Cup winning teams with the Canadiens, fell ill during a game during the 1925 season and died of tuberculosis a few months later.
The current voting system for the Vezina was instituted for the 1981-82 season. Before then, from 1926-27 through 1980-81, the award went to the goaltender that played at least 25 games and allowed the fewest goals that season.
At the end of the 2014-15 season the Vezina went to Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens. Price crushed his competition, receiving 27 first place votes and three second place votes. The only goaltender to have won the award in a more overwhelming manner was Pete Peters of the Boston Bruins. In 1981-82, Peters, playing in a 21-team NHL, took first place on each ballot.
It’s understandable why the voters overwhelming went with Price. When the season came to end he had the lowest goals against average (1.96), highest save percentage (.933), was tied for second in shutouts (9), and had the most wins (44). Price was also on the ice more than all but three other goalkeepers.
Price has started the 2015-16 as hot as he finished last season. He is tops in wins and shutouts and near the top in goals against average and save percentage. Price is obviously one of the five goaltenders in the running for the 2015-16 Vezina. Read on to see where he ranks among the top five contenders.
5. Jaroslav Halak
The New York Islanders’ Jaroslav Halak is a sleeper pick for the 2015-16 Vezina Trophy. He received no votes in last year’s Vezina race, and his last appearance in the voting was at the end of the 2011-12 season when he came in sixth place with a single second place vote. Halak was playing for the St. Louis Blues at that time.
Playing behind a surging New York Islanders club last season, Halak broke the Islanders record for most wins, putting up 38. He also set the team record with 11 consecutive wins last season. Hockey Hall of Famer, Billy Smith, previously held both of those records.
Halak started the season injured, but since he has returned to the ice he has delivered two shutouts and three wins in four games.
4. Braden Holtby
Braden Holtby’s first appearance in the Vezina voting came last season. The 26-year-old goaltender for the Washington Capitals finished the season with a record of 41-20-10. His goals against average was 2.36 and his save percentage .923. He also had nine shutouts and played a league-leading 4247 minutes. In short, the Caps rode Holtby hard, and he rewarded the team by finishing fourth in Vezina voting.
The way things look early this season, the Capitals plan on giving Holtby the same type of workload as last season, and if the early results are any type of harbinger, Holtby will be up for it.
3. Pekka Rinne
Pekka Rinne came out of the gate hot last season, putting up a 29-6-2 record, but he faded down the stretch and finished the season at 41-17-6. Still, the Nashville Predators netminder finished second to Vezina winner Carey Price, garnering one first place, 15 second place, and 10 third place votes. It was the second time in his career that Rinne finished as runner-up, losing to Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins at the end of the 2010-11 season.
In addition to his two runner-up appearances in the Vezina voting, Rinne finished third in 2011-12, a season where he played a career high 73 games. In fact, in each of the three seasons Rinne made a run at the Vezina, he played at least 64 games.
It looks like the Predators plan on giving Rinne a heavy workload this season, and if history tells us anything, it’s that he will reward that trust with stellar goaltending.
2. Henrik Lundqvist
Henrik Lundqvist joined the New York Rangers for the 2005-06 season. Since then, he has won one Vezina Trophy (2011-12).
Winning even a single Vezina is impressive, but what stands out about Lundqvist is the fact that he has received votes for the award in every season he has played.
Last season Lundqvist was one of three players not named Carey Price to receive a first place vote for the Vezina. With his consistent play, there’s no reason to think Lundqvist won’t be in the running for the Vezina for a 10th straight season.
1. Carey Price
Carey Price entered the 2015-16 NHL season as the favorite to win the Vezina. And why not? He won the award last year. He also won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP, William M. Jennings Trophy for lowest goals against, and the Ted Lindsay Award, as outstanding player according to other NHL players. He was just the second goalie to win the Hart, Vezina, and Lindsay in the same season. The other goaltender that did so was Dominik Hasek. Hasek won each of those awards in 1996-97 and again in 1997-98.
Price is currently the hottest goaltender in the league, and if he can keep up the momentum, he will be in the running for not just the Vezina, but for each of the four awards he took home last season.