by PuckStopsHere on 01/19/09 at 03:08 AM ET
The Vezina race for best goaltender has become a very tight race. I have been picking Steve Mason of the Columbus Blue Jackets for this award, but a couple strong games from Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins coupled with a couple lesser games from Mason have been enough to tilt the balance. I am now picking Tim Thomas as the current Vezina leader.
Thomas has a league leading .937 saves percentage and a 2.00 GAA (that is second only to Mason). Thomas has faced more shots than Mason in slightly less ice time. The race between the two of them is very close and could again swing on a couple of games.
What is interesting about the Vezina race is that the goaltenders with most games played are for one reason or another are not serious candidates. This allows goalies with less than thirty games played at mid-season to lead the race. The last time a goalie won a Vezina (in a non-lockout shortened season) with less than 50 games played it was Patrick Roy in 1988/89 (who played 48 times). These Vezina leaders are on pace to finish around the same number of games. Steve Mason will likely exceed that pace by the end of the season, as he is the clear number one goalie in Columbus. With the current two goalie system in Boston (involving Manny Fernandez and Tim Thomas), it is quite likely that Thomas’s final games played total will be around that mark.
The Vezina has been won by goalies who play almost every game for the last several years. That trend appears very likely to end - at least for one season.
Tim Thomas has taken over the Vezina Trophy lead for now. I think the race is close enough that it will likely change hands again soon.
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