While there may be no contest for the Norris Trophy, as Jes Golbez informed us of earlier, the race for the Vezina is much closer. Nick Lidstrom isn't involved, so we might actually have something to debate. If the Norris race is a John Wayne western where you know exactly who is going to be left standing at the end, this trophy race is more like the ending to The Departed when everyone is lying on the ground in a bloody mess and you have no freaking clue what just happened. There are goalies who weren't nominated who can make a good case for themselves and the ones that were nominated are separated by about this much.
Here's a breakdown of the nominees, in no particular order.
Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
Statline: 77 starts, 44-27-6, 2.17 GAA, .920 SV%, 4 SO
What stands out: Won three of the last four Vezinas awarded and the only one on this list to have won the trophy.
His case: You can basically make the argument that this guy kept the Devils up high in the standings all season long. This team isn't nearly like the won that won a few titles in the last decade, but this is certainly still the same Marty Brodeur. He was also forced to put up with Sean Avery for an extra week and a half after helping his team make the playoffs, which is good for some pity points in my book.
Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose Sharks
Statline: 77 starts, 46-21-8, 2.14 GAA, .910 SV%, 6 SO
What stands out: Save for one season after the lockout, this guy has been posting sick numbers like these every year since 2000.
His case: Nabokov isn't always in the conversation when it comes to great goaltenders, at least from my point of view, but this guy is as good as it gets. He tied for third in GAA and came two wins short of Marty's record for wins in a season this year. He had a solid save percentage and absolutely carried the load in San Jose, showing that the team made the right decision when they got rid of Vesa Toskala.
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
Statline: 72 starts, 37-24-10, 2.23 GAA, .912 SV%, 10 SO
What stands out: At 26 years of age, he's the kid of the bunch.
His case: They call him the King and it's certainly not for nothing. At 26, King Henrik is six years younger than Nabokov and a full decade younger than Brodeur, but he plays just as well as both of them. He made more saves than both of them and led the lead with double digit shutouts. The rest of his numbers are worse, but he certainly deserves to be mentioned in this group.
And there are a bunch of big names left off of this list. Most notably is Dominik Hasek, who has won the award six times during his career. He split time with Chris Osgood and while the two posted great numbers, the way they split time along with the stellar defense in front of them leaves them off the list. Roberto Luongo is probably the guy with the biggest beef here. His numbers are comparable (73, 35-29-9, 2.38, .917, 6) and you can certainly make the case that he gets less help from the men in front of him than any of the others. Then again, this year's Devils weren't the Devils of old and many nights they relied heavily on Marty. But when you are talking about goalies of this caliber, their teams are always leaning on them. JS Giguere is the final omission on the list, simply because he had a great year that deserves to be mentioned. He started about 20 fewer games, which sinks his ship, but his other numbers (2.12 GAA, .922 SV%) are stellar. Despite all this, I think the right guys got nominated. If you look at those left off, each one has a pretty big chink in their armor.