To continue previewing the 2017/2018 NHL regular season, I will provide in-depth predictions for the major awards. Over the next week, I will look at the Vezina, Hart, Norris, Maurice Richard, and Art Ross trophies. The season starts halfway through the predictions, but the results this week won’t influence the predictions.
There is no better place to start predicting the awards than with the net-minders. The Vezina Trophy is awarded to the best goalie in the league. Past winners include Sergei Bobrovsky, Braden Holtby and Carey Price, but they are far from locking-down the award. Many goaltenders have shown elite consistency over the past few years, but they could be challenged by a few younger goalies ready to soak up the pressure. Let’s start with the number one ranking for the Vezina Trophy, Carey Price.
- Carey Price
The Montreal Canadiens created very little offence last year, and that probably won’t change. In order to make the playoffs, the Habs will have to buy-in to a defence-first mentality. By acquiring Karl Alzner, David Schlemko and Joe Morrow, the Canadiens improved their blue-line. Those additions will be incredibly important because they will help shelter Carey Price. Price will see less action than he did in years previous, and will be perfectly positioned for each attempt. With the extra protection, Price will be able to replicate his MVP-winning form and carry the Canadiens to the playoffs.
- Braden Holtby
Braden Holtby’s job will be tougher this season. The Washington Capitals had the best defence in the league last year, but their team has changed. They lost the offensive flair of Shattenkirk and the defensive poise of Karl Alzner. In order to keep up a top defence, the Caps will have to rely on Holtby to create some magic. He has shown ever since bursting onto the scene in 2010/2011 that he is an elite goaltender. His elite reflexes and compete level will help him keep pucks out of the net amidst his increased workload.
- Sergei Bobrovsky
Bobrovsky was last year’s Vezina Trophy winner. It was the second time he won the award in his career. He was the biggest reason why the Colombus Blue Jackets had the second-best defensive record in the NHL. With the continued maturation of the Blue Jackets defensive core, Bobrovsky will get even more support this year. That should decrease the quality of shots that the opponents create, and improve his numbers. “Bob” is a dominant goalie in the NHL, but only as long as he’s healthy. Injuries have robbed him of some of his better seasons, so as long as he can remain healthy, he will continue frustrating his opponents on a nightly basis.
- Matt Murray
With the departure of Marc-Andre Fleury, the crease is soley Matt Murray’s. At 23 years old, Murray is ready to take the NHL by storm. In a season and a half, he has already won two Stanley Cups, while posting a stellar 2.32 Goals-Against-Average and a .925 Save Percentage in the regular season. He has already shown he is elite, but now it’s time for him to do it all on his own. Murray will continue to thrive under the spotlight in Pittsburgh, and show that he is one of the best goaltenders in the NHL.
- Ben Bishop
Ben Bishop is on his third team in less than half a season. After getting traded to the Kings at the trade deadline, his rights were shipped off the Dallas in the summer. He quickly signed a six-year contract worth $4.92 million annually. Playing for a new organization, Bishop will take time to adjust. He won’t have the honour of playing behind a Hedman or a Doughty, but once he adjusts, he will return to excellence. The Stars are top-heavy, so Bishop will have a big workload, but with all of his experience, he’s ready for the challenge.
Outside, looking in:
Devan Dubnyk, Cam Talbot, Frederik Andersen, John Gibson and Jonathan Quick
Even on the outside, there are some elite goaltenders. Devan Dubnyk will continue proving his doubters wrong, while Quick needs a big rebound off of his injury-riddled 2016/2017 season. Although the top-five are the best of the best, any of these goalies could climb these rankings and challenge for the Vezina.