Henrik Lundqvist may be the most popular candidate so far for the Vezina Trophy.
And it’s no surprise with his eight shutouts, and being on the leader board for wins (4th-30), save percentage (1st-.939) and goals against (2nd-1.79).
Rightly so Lundqvist is deserving to be named among the great goaltenders who prove longevity over the duration of 82 games.
It’s been 26 years since a New York Ranger has bestowed such a distinct honour. And that Ranger is John Vanbiesbrouck, of course.
Lundqvist has put in 47 games this season with the Rangers having to play 19 more. Vanbiesbrouck played 61 and posted a 31-21-5 campaign during his Vezina run. His stats round off with the numbers of a 3.32 GAA and a .887 save percentage. Obviously, the pads of goalies and advancements have skewed the playing field quite a bit in the last 20 years.
But “Beezer” also had a mildly successful postseason that year helping the Rangers get to the Conference finals, but losing to the Montreal Canadiens.
Vanbiesbrouck did this just in his second professional season in his early 20s, while Lundqvist, a bit more mature, is going about his remarkable season just at the age of 30.
“Beezer,” in his young age, just barely removed from major junior hockey, was a major piece in carrying a mediocre team, which placed fourth in the Patrick Division with just 78 points behind the Philadelphia Flyers (110 points), the Washington Capitals (107) and the New York Islanders (90).
There was nothing special to the Rangers’ squad back then, but they rolled through the Flyers and Capitals until the Prince of Whales Conference loss to the Capitals.
It can be argued that coaching experience factors between the two teams. Ted Sator, just 36 then, coached his first NHL team that season with the Rangers, and had a short-lived NHL coaching career, following by many years assisting to now manning the bench in the ECHL. The name John Tortorella carries a bit more weight now then Sator did then.
Fact by fact, both goalies are talents in their respected class within the era. Vanbiesbrouck, however, stood out more with less and has raised the bar high for goaltenders in New York.
It’s still safe to say Lundqvist, with eight shutouts, is shadowing that Vanbiesbrouck’s standout season a different way.