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InGoal Introduces the “Bunny,” a New Award for NHL Backups

InGoal Introduces the “Bunny,” a New Award for NHL Backups

In the midst of the most closely contested Vezina race in years, the NHL’s elite starters have been in the spotlight. Bobrovsky. Holtby. Price. Talbot. Dubnyk. Crawford. Names that deserve the praise they’ve received for strong performances this season.

There’s a tier of unsung performers, however, that have earned recognition for their contributions: these are the NHL’s backup goaltenders. The game is evolving, and it demands far more of goaltenders than ever before. The speed of today’s game increases the risk of fatigue and injury, meaning that teams are risking a lot by riding a single goaltender into the ground. Only two goalies started more than 65 games this season, meaning that even teams with elite starters rely on their backups to gain standings points in 15-30 starts. Teams are no longer content to ice a placeholder: they want a player.

Chicago’s Scott Darling had an excellent season behind an elite starter in Corey Crawford.

This season featured several superb performances by backup goalies, some of whom showed more quality than the men ahead of them in line, and we can expect this trend to become even more pronounced as the intensity of the NHL season increases year after year. These excellent and indispensable performances should not go unrecognized, and from now on, they won’t.

Introducing a New Award

We are proud to introduce the “Bunny” Larocque Trophy for backup goaltending. The “Bunny” Larocque Trophy is an annual award given to the backup goalkeeper adjudged to be the best in this role, as voted by the staff of InGoal Magazine.

The award is named in honour of Michel “Bunny” Larocque, paragon of the backup goalie. Coming into the league at almost the same time as Montreal Canadiens star Ken Dryden, Larocque spent his career with the Habs in the legend’s sizeable shadow. Despite never claiming the starter’s role in Montreal, Larocque’s career is studded with team accomplishments, including four Stanley Cups, and four Vezina Trophies (at the time, shared between goalies playing 25 or more games on the team allowing the fewest goals). Because his name is synonymous with excellence in a supporting role, making the award his namesake was an obvious decision.

The powerhouse Washington Capitals owe some of their success to the solid play of backup Philipp Grubauer.

Criteria

– Goaltenders must have started (not merely played in) between 15 and 30 games. Below this, and the significance of their contribution is hard to measure. Above it, the goaltender is moving into tandem territory, sharing starts rather than truly backing up.

– Goaltenders must be true backups, not career starters who fall into the appropriate range of games started because of injury.

– Goaltenders will be judged by the significance of their positive impact on the team. Did they make a real difference with their play?

Voting

Each member of the InGoal staff will rank their top three choices at the conclusion of the regular season. A first-place vote is worth five points, a second-place vote is worth three, and a third-place vote is worth one. The goaltender earning the most points wins. In the event of a tie, the goaltender with the most first-place votes wins. If still tied, the winner is the goaltender with the most second-place votes. If still tied, the goaltender with the most minutes played is the winner.

The three finalists will be announced at the conclusion of the first round of the playoffs, and the winner will be declared at the end of the second round.

Who deserves to be honoured with the inaugural “Bunny” Larocque Trophy? Have your say in the comments below.

About The Author

Paul Campbell

Paul Campbell is a writer at InGoal, and a former CIS goaltender and women's goaltending coach for Mount Allison University. He occassionally moonlights as a university literature instructor.

18 Comments

  1. Ronn

    Crawford rarely gets Vezina consideration; at least give the Bunny to Oh, My! Darling

    Reply
  2. Riley miner

    Juuse Saros, Juuse Saros, Juuse Saros!

    Reply
  3. Creasenut

    Aaron Dell has had a sneakily good season. Also liked Raanta, Grubauer, and Saros. Jonathan Bernier and Chad Johnson deserve recognition for stepping up and keeping their teams in playoff race when needed. Speaking of stepping up to keep your team in it, even though he doesn’t meet the games played criteria it’s hard not to throw Peter Budaj’s name out there. Third string guy who stepped in and put up I believe around a .917 sv%, and kept LA from being a lottery team, which they often looked like. I’d give the award to him just because he’s a career backup who started the season in the AHL, then drug his team out of the league gutter and kept them alive right up till his last game with the Kings

    Reply
    • Robbie

      You are 100% correct with Budaji, the guy literally comes in from off the streets looking for a job and keeps the Kings from being one of the worst teams in the league. His reward? Being shipped off to Tampa Bay for a goalie who was supposedly was going to take the Kings to the playoffs, now the Kings will be left with potentially 2 injury proned goalies in Bishop and Quick, that’s if they keep Bishop. But yes Budaji deserves more recognition than he’s being given, I say Darling and Budaji are the “Bunny” recipients in my opinion

      Reply
  4. Art james

    With a third best Sv% at 93.72 out of all goalies, it has to be lemont,IL very own Scott Darling.

    Reply
  5. Charles eldridge

    The clear winner is Jonathan Bernier. His 33 starts number got a big boost at the end of the season when the #1 John Gibson got hurt and I don’t think that the 3 extra starts from your 15-30 rubric should disqualify him for this award. In the ten or so straight games that Bernier got called to start right at the end due to Gibsons injury …he earned points for the team in every single one. If Bernier didn’t play out of his head in the final stretch before Gibby came back, the Ducks would not have earned the Pacific Division title on the last day of the season.

    Look at the stats. Look at the plays. Look at the importance of stepping up when called to play. The award is Berniers. The only thing that could knock it is the 3 extra starts above your rubric, but since that was due to injury to the starter at the end of the season, it is is fulfilling the true role of a backup to a T.

    Reply
  6. Mona

    Scott Darling has to take this. He’s elevated his game the past few years to the point where he’s earned a starting spot he’s not going to get being behind Crawford in Chicago. He was the reason Chicago was able to stay in the race when Crawford got sick or, frankly, just seemed to forget how to be a Vezina contending goalie for stretches.

    Reply
  7. Michael

    Scott Darling, without a doubt!!

    Reply
  8. Robbie

    I would have to say Scott Darling has been the best back up the past few years, if it wasn’t for him the Hawks would never had won the Stanley Cup in 2015 when Crawford had the meltdown in Nashville. This year he stepped in once again when Crawford went down with the pendicidices attack.

    Reply
  9. DanielleinDC

    Philipp Grubauer–in 24 games he had a .926 SV%, 2.04 GAA, and three shutouts. The consensus is he’ll be one of the first goalies to play for Vegas next season.

    Reply
  10. Craig andrew

    Budaj would get my first place vote. Kept the Kings alive until Quick returned. Karma that they crapped it once they got Bishop. Bernier would be my number two and an honourable mention to Al Montoya who must try and fill in the skates of the best goalie in the world when its his night in the pipes.

    Reply
  11. jon Ancker

    Juuse Saros !!

    Reply
  12. M.Paluch

    It would have to be Scott Darling, hands down! Besides I don’t see how the Blackhawks will be able to afford him so he may become a starter next season. For whom
    is the question!

    Reply
  13. Dl

    Carter Hutton had more shutouts than many starters did this year, playing behind a problematic defense the first half of the year. Second half shared in the League’s best save percentage.

    Reply
  14. Whitetyrell

    Absolutely brilliant. The most under-sung position in professional hockey! These guys, by starting 15-30 games have a direct impact on not only the games they play, but often an indesputeable role in the locker rooms, providing positive reinforcement for new additions as well providing a level head that often can help defense structure and often, just a morale boost to get the guys going! Love the award, can’t wait to see who gets it! ??

    Reply
  15. Ken

    Mike Condon has done a great job in the last 2 years.

    Reply
  16. MIke

    I’d throw Condon in as well.

    Reply
  17. Aaron B.

    1. Budaj was a nearly forgotten goalie, but his play this season in Quick’s injury absence kept the Kings in the playoff hunt (weird thing, his trade away and the Kings fall short…
    2. Condon did a superb job in Ottawa when he was needed, and picked himself up after his departure/waiver from Montreal and trade from Pittsburgh to Ottawa. When you were getting to feel unwanted, it feels great to prove your worth!
    3. Bernier deserves a LOT of credit for keeping the Ducks in a tight Pacific division race down the stretch. After his experience with the Leafs, this season validated Bernier as a still-very-capable guy at the NHL level.

    Reply

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