by PuckStopsHere on 12/02/08 at 05:02 PM ET
This season, a rather overlooked goalie is leading the Vezina race. If the season ended today, I would give the Vezina Trophy to Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins who has been overlooked enough to be left off of the All Star fan ballot. There is another largely unknown goalie who is playing even better, but in more limited ice time. Craig Anderson of the Florida Panthers was penciled in to be the seldom used backup in Florida. He currently leads the NHL with a .948 saves percentage and sports a 1.87 goals against average. He has appeared in 10 games so far this season, which is more than half of the 17 games he appeared in last season.
It was expected that Tomas Vokoun would carry the Panthers in goal and while he has not played poorly, Anderson has played so well that he cannot be left on the bench. Anderson is getting progressively more icetime as his solid play continues.
Anderson has played very well in Florida over the last two seasons. In 2006/07 he played five NHL games sporting a .931 saves percentage and a 2.21 GAA. Last season, in 17 games he had a .935 saves percentage and a 2.25 GAA. These are all star numbers if he can maintain them in regular play over a full season.
Anderson came to Florida from Chicago. The Panthers acquired him for the low price of a sixth round draft pick. Though Anderson never got on track in Chicago, he has been strong in Florida. Had the Blackhawks had the foresight to keep him in the system, they wouldn’t have needed to spend big bucks for goaltending (Chicago has the most expensive goaltending tandem in the NHL). This is an example of a minor overlooked trade that is beginning to pay big dividends for the Panthers.
Craig Anderson is an unsung goalie who is playing very well. He looks good enough to be given an extended run as a number one goalie. That likely will not happen in Florida given the presence of Tomas Vokoun, but it gives the Panthers a solid two goalie system.
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