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Vezina Trophy finalists announced

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Vezina Trophy finalists announced

The NHL has announced its top three candidates for the 2012 Vezina Trophy, presented for the top goaltending in the League. This year's finalsts are New York Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist, Nashville's Pekka Rinne, and Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick.

Lunqvists' honors include winning a career-high 39 games in 62 game appearances and leading the Rangers to the top spot in the Eastern Conference for the first time since the 1993-94 season. He finished the regular season with a total of eight shutouts and a .930 save percentage.

Rinne completed five shutouts during the regular season and recorded an NHL-best 43 wins in 73 games. He faced the most shots in the league and has a .923 save percentage.

Quick elevated Los Angeles--who was named the 'worst offensive team in the NHL' for a good portion of the season--to a playoff-contention team. He led the League with 10 shutouts under his belt, recording a .929 save percentage and 1.95 GAA. To top it off, he earned 35 of LA's 40 wins this season.

If you didn't know his name before, he sure is making quite the impression across the NHL for knocking the Canucks out of the playoffs and completely shutting them out during Game 3.

NHL.com even had a few words to say about Quick:

"His accomplishments came with almost no margin for error, as the Kings were 29th in the League in scoring at 2.29 goals per game. And while he had 34 losses in regulation, overtime or shootouts, the Kings scored two goals or fewer in 15 of them, and one goal or less in nine."

Out of the three finalists, Quick is the most valuable to his team, and in my opinion, would be the clear choice. Who do you think should take this year's honors?

High School Lites Roundup: Basketball Week 3

High School Lites Roundup: Basketball Week 3

High School Lites returned to the hardwood this week as we had IHSA basketball highlights from all over the area. Plus we also had a football commitment from the state's top prospect right before the signing period.

WINTRUST ATHLETE OF THE WEEKBrother Rice's Marquise Kennedy

TEAM OF THE WEEK PRESENTED BY SAINT XAVIER: Curie Condors 

Crystal Lake South's Trevor Keegan commits to Michigan

THURSDAY'S GAME

No. 2 Curie topples No. 12 Simeon

FRIDAY'S GAMES

Lincoln Park upsets No. 1 Whitney Young

No. 3 Bloom takes down No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor 

No. 4 Evanston races by Niles North

No. 20 Uplift runs past Marshall

Glenbard West upsets No. 21 Downers North

No. 23 Romeoville holds off Plainfield South

Lemont beats Shepard on buzzer-beater

Payton knocks off Taft

Elmwood Park beats Guerin Prep in Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

Dundee-Crown defeats Crystal Lake South 

Four takeaways: Jets win in overtime, but Blackhawks building momentum

Four takeaways: Jets win in overtime, but Blackhawks building momentum

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets at the United Center on Friday:

1. Top guns lead the charge for Jets

The Jets are one of the best teams in the NHL because they're absolutely loaded up front and get their scoring from everywhere. The Blackhawks know this of their Central Division foes and after seeing them for the third time in two weeks.

On Nov. 29, it was Nikolaj Ehlers who had a hat trick. On Tuesday, Kyle Connor had a two-goal night. On Friday, it was Mark Scheifele (two goals, one assist) and Blake Wheeler (three assists) leading the way for the Jets with three-point efforts. The top guys have been a thorn in the Blackhawks' side this season, with Scheifele scoring the game-winner 50 seconds into overtime for their third victory against Chicago in 15 days.

"You can play really well against them for 58 minutes, but it only takes just an instant and then it’s in the back of your net," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "That’s something that we gotta learn, to play against those guys and in those situations if you’re going to be able to go head-to-head. A lot of it we were really good, we had let downs and it made it tough for us. But we did a lot of good things."

2. Last-minute goals

In all three periods, there were last-minute goals that changed the flow of the game. 

After the Jets took a 1-0 lead in the first period, Jonathan Toews responded for the Blackhawks with 10.2 seconds left to even it at 1-1. In the second, Mathieu Perreault scored on a breakaway coming out of the penalty box with 18 seconds remaining to put the Jets back in front 3-2. And then in the third, Erik Gustafsson tied it at 3-3 with 7.5 left to force overtime. 

"It's tough after a loss in overtime, but it felt good," said Gustafsson, who missed the previous two games with an illness. "I didn't know it was 7 seconds left, but it was good to see it go in. ... It was good to be back here with the team, too. I wasn't in the last game. We came out hard the first period and I think we played a solid 60 minutes. Tough break in the overtime."

3. Captain Consistency

Toews usually produces on the scoresheet in spurts. Historically, he'll go through stretches where his offense dries up for several games in a row. And then he'll follow that up by getting really hot. This season has been different.

The Blackhawks captain's longest point drought this year is three games. After scoring two more goals, his season total is up to 16 through 34 games, taking over the team lead from Patrick Kane. He had 20 goals in 74 games last season, showing just how far he's come from a year ago.

Toews is on pace to finish with a career-high 39 goals — his current personal best is 34, set in 2008-09. The Blackhawks need him to continue producing at that rate, and there's no reason he can't.

"Our line played well and created a lot of chances," Toews said. "If it's me scoring or [Dominik Kahun] or [Brandon Saad], it doesn't really matter. As long as we're making plays when we've got the puck out there, we're happy about that."

4. Jets power play stays hot

The best advice when you play the Jets: Stay out of the penalty box. Because they'll make you pay.

Entering Friday, they had the top-ranked power play with a 30.4 percent success rate. The Blackhawks gave them three opportunities and they cashed in on one, giving them eight power-play goals on 17 attempts in their past four games (47.1 percent conversation rate). They also improved to 5-for-11 (45.5 percent) in three games against the Blackhawks.

To the Blackhawks' credit, they killed off two key penalties in the third period before the first TV timeout and it allowed them to keep it a one-goal game and ultimately force overtime by scoring the next goal.

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