InGoal Announces Finalists for Inaugural “Bunny” Larocque Award
The NHL recently announced its finalists for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the top goaltender each season. All three undoubtedly deserve the recognition that comes with such an honour, but here at InGoal, we’ve decided to acknowledge a group of goalies who don’t often receive the praise they deserve.
Before the playoffs, we introduced the “Bunny” Larocque Trophy for top backup goaltender. The criteria for the award are described here, and they essentially ensure the award goes to a true backup, rather than a tandem partner or career starter. Even these basic guidelines generated some controversy among our readers, especially the limit on number of games started. Some argued that career backups thrust into the starter’s role, like Peter Budaj, Mike Condon, and even Jonathan Bernier, have exemplified the backup’s role by outperforming expectations significantly, and keeping their teams alive. It’s too late to change for this year, but we’ll review this criterion for next season, because such performances certainly deserve to be recognized.
Even with relatively strict eligibility rules, the staff at InGoal still cast votes for eight different goaltenders. Online, respondents to our Twitter poll included at least that number of write-in candidates, showing just how many strong backup performances there were this season. Predicting a winner was so challenging that the poll doesn’t even include one of the eventual finalists!
Who should win the inaugural “Bunny” Larocque Trophy for best backup goalie (starting between 15-30 games)?
— InGoal Magazine (@InGoalMedia) April 12, 2017
The list of honourable mentions (who received at least one vote) include the following goaltenders. They’re listed from least to most votes.
The Finalists (in random order)
I. Aaron Dell
Aaron Dell’s season was very quietly excellent. Though he started only 17 games behind workhorse Martin Jones, he managed some impressive numbers, including an 11-6-0 record and a sparkling 93.1 save percentage. This was also Dell’s first season in the NHL, but if his rookie campaign is any indication, this 27-year-old will be around for a while.
II. Scott Darling
Playing behind a strong goalie on a fading former powerhouse team is no easy task, but Darling rose to it so well this season he’ll likely become Bunny-ineligible the next – starters, after all, don’t qualify. His 27 starts is an impressive backup workload, made even more remarkable by his 5 relief appearances. A stingy 92.4 save percentage left him tied for 5th overall in the league, showing clearly what an asset he was for the Blackhawks.
III. Antti Raanta
Henrik Lundqvist’s uncharacteristically inconsistent injury-troubled season meant that Antti Raanta was in for more work than he might have imagined. After 26 starts and 4 appearances in relief, he showed himself to be one of the top backup goaltenders, reminiscent of (though not so thoroughly impressive as) Cam Talbot’s spelling of an injured Lundqvist two seasons ago. His 92.2 save percentage behind a sometimes disorganized Rangers defence shows he can get the job done when called upon.
So, did we get it right? Have your say in the comments below before the winner is revealed at the end of the second round of the playoffs.