Race For The Vezina
In previous NHL seasons the formidable quest for the Vezina has been one of the most honorable and prestigious awards to receive. The winner of this will forever be marked as an elite goaltender and will forever be considered to be one of the best. As we approach the halfway point of the 2002/2003 campaign it is a race between four goalies, Belfour, Brodeur, Thibault
and Turco. The outcome still uncertain, it is anyone’s hand.
Eddie Belfour already was an established netminder till last season, where he was considered to be old, washed up, and long over due for an retirement. He was kindly pushed aside, and beat out for his job in Dallas, by fellow Vezina contender Marty Turco. Eddie came into Toronto, and lets just say he did not get off on the right foot. His team and him struggled, being defeated in many games, at one point they dove down to second last in the Eastern Conference. But a turn of events and Crazy Eddies determination to reestablish himself as one of the elite. This resulted in him single handedly turning Toronto around and allowing them to develop into a contender. Of these four goalies he ranks 3rd in Goals Against Average with 1.98, and 2nd in Save Percentage with and outstanding .930. Cannot forget is five shutouts either. Already obtaining the Vezina twice, and third time will certainly be nice.
Off to Dallas, Turco much like Legace was always seen to be a sure started in the NHL, during his stretch as a backup. As this upcoming season came, little knew of him, and those who did were confident he would be an elite goaltender. Despite having a strong team ahead of him he still remains the reason for the success for the Stars. Spectacular saves, you continuously see him on the highlight reel. Aside the fact .933 SV% and 1.72gaa are better than these other three goalies, he is still much an unknown. The Vezina would surely establish himself as top goaltender and a Stanley Cup would make him an elite.
Martin Broduer, what more to say?. Already an accomplished goaltender, has two Stanley Cup rings, gold medal, but does not have a Vezina to his name. In GAA and SV% he ranks behind the other three goalies, and his .913% is not among the best at all. So what makes him appropriate for this award? Much like Belfour he has single handedly carried his team. The Devils cannot score which puts the pressure on Brodeur not to allow more than two goals per game. New Jersey only 77 goals against and 89 goals for, spells the story for Martin. They are on top of their division and second in the East, without Brodeur safe to say New Jersey would be a non playoff team.
In Chicago, much like Brodeur, Thibault is surrounded by a team who struggles to score and rely on him to be solid. But unlike Martin, Jocelyn’s numbers are among the best. .927sv% and 1.97gaa. Thibault has yet to establish him self as one of today’s finest, a Vezina will certainly be a nice step in the door.
There are still more surprises this year to come, other netminders like Lalime and Cloutier are certainly making their mark. Tough year to pick the receiver of this reward, with so many dominating goaltenders to choose from.