NHL Mid-Term Awards: Who deserves the Vezina Trophy?

Caps star goalie Braden Holtby explains his now infamous pregame ritual to the Hockey Central at Noon crew, saying “he gets the eye muscles warmed up so they're sharp when the game comes around.”

As the NHL hits the halfway mark of the 2015-16 campaign, Sportsnet.ca sizes up the races for hockey’s major individual awards. Today we look at the top netminders vying for the Vezina Trophy with no former winners in the conversation at the moment.

Leading Vezina Trophy contenders…

Cory Schneider He is far and away the best player on his team, but since he plays for the Devils, his talents are often overshadowed by his goaltending peers — which was never the case when Martin Brodeur played. His 18-13-5 record doesn’t jump off the page, but you can’t deny his .926 save percentage, 2.09 GAA and three shutouts.

Roberto Luongo Just like his Florida Panthers, Luongo has performed better than could have been expected this season. His .931 save percentage is second only to Braden Holtby among goalies with at least 18 appearances and his 2.06 GAA is third. He is 13-3 since a three-game losing streak in November.

Jake Allen The 25-year-old has established himself as the clear cut starter in St. Louis after splitting duties with Brian Elliott last season. His five shutouts are second only to Corey Crawford’s six.

Jonathan Quick The two-time Stanley Cup champ usually does his best work in the post-season, but his strong start has helped the Kings re-establish themselves as the class of the Pacific Division.

Mid-term winner…

Braden Holtby – When the Capitals selected Holtby in the fourth round of the 2008 NHL Draft, it’s unlikely they anticipated him developing into one of the NHL’s elite netminders. Right now, it’s hard to argue that he’s not the best goalie in the league. Fortunately for them, that’s exactly what has happened.

One reason for Holtby’s drastic improvement this season has been his work with Capitals goalie coach Mitch Korn.

“Mitch has found a way to tighten my game up, create less holes, using athleticism to get into position quicker instead of using it explosively,” Holtby told Hockey Central at Noon in December. “That’s the one thing we’ve worked on the most.”

Another could be that iron sharpens iron.

Alex Ovechkin explained last year that he and his teammates never take it easy on Holtby at practice at the goalie’s request.

“I think when you want to be the best, you have to stop the best shot,” Ovechkin said. “So in practice, we take our hardest shots: high, low, hard.”

Not only is the Lloydminster, Sask., native the clear frontrunner for the Vezina but he’s heavy in the mix for the Hart as well.

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