Tag:Tomas Vokoun
Posted on: November 2, 2011 10:38 am
Edited on: November 2, 2011 12:59 pm
 

Ovechkin benched in crunch time; big deal or not?

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- When it came crunch time on Tuesday night for the Washington Capitals, trailing by one with less than a minute to go, Bruce Boudreau put his best line on the ice. That did not include putting Alexander Ovechkin in the game. And wouldn't you know it, Nicklas Backstrom scored on a big rebound to send the game to overtime.

The Caps eventually prevailed over the Ducks when Backstrom again beat Jonas Hiller. Ovechkin was on the ice for that goal, getting an assist as the pass to Backstrom went off Ovie's skate.

But back to that end of regulation. Coming out of a timeout, Boudreau had just diagrammed a play and pulled his goalie Tomas Vokoun. That's when Ovechkin was ready to jump on the ice, only to be told to take a seat.

As you can see from the video, Ovechkin was saying the right things afterward. But at the time? Well he didn't seem too pleased with the benching, now did he?

The obvious answer is why wouldn't he? Of course he wanted to play and be on the ice in the final minute. If he weren't angry and wanting to play, just taking a benching with disinterest, wouldn't THAT be cause for concern? So he muttered something to himself. Big deal.

Boudreau explained -- quite well, if you ask me -- why Ovechkin wasn't on the ice. Was it due to poor performance?

"You tell me," Boudreau responded. "I got to put out the guys that I think are going to score the goal. Ninety-nine percent of the time Alex is the guy I think is going to score the goal. I just didn't think he was going to score the goal at that time tonight."

Ovechkin responded on Wednesday, explaining he was, indeed frustrated, but supports Boudreau's system of accountability. (Quotes from Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post.)

"I was pissed off. Of course I want to be in that situation on the ice. It was just a little bit frustrating because I’m a leader in the team and I want that kind of responsibility."

As to what he said that was caught on TV?

"It doesn’t matter who I said it, and what I said. It looked funny on TV."

The funny thing is that Boudreau is making a heck of a lot of calls this year, brave ones. He started Michal Neuvirth over Vokoun on opening night. He specifically said Ovechkin needed to be better ... after Game 2 of the season. He split up his stud defensive pairing of Karl Alzner and John Carlson so they could extend their versatility. Mike Knuble? He's been pushed down to the fourth line. Ol' Bruce has been pushing a lot of buttons, and a lot of them have been the right ones. After all, the Caps are 8-2-0.

Is there big trouble in little China Town, aka Washington (see, Verizon Center is located in D.C.'s China To ... ah forget it)?

Not at all. Feelings might be a little hurt, but that's about it. Boudreau was right, the third line of Jason Chimera, Joel Ward and Brooks Laich was excellent not only on Tuesday, but all season long. Oh, and Washington scored the goal. Doesn't that vindicate Boudreau a little bit?

Fact of the matter is that Ovechkin isn't playing the same way that we're used to seeing. Check that. He IS playing the same way we're used to seeing and everybody in the league seems to know what he's going to do before he does. But we aren't seeing him produce the same way. He isn't producing the goals that make you say "wow." He has scored five goals and has five more assists in 10 games, but you can see it isn't coming as easily. The up-ice rushes are shut down nearly every time now with defenders expecting that cutback to center ice and then the shot flying.

That's why this is being blown a bit out of proportion.

If it happens in the next game, then there might be some more there. As of now, Boudreau had a hunch, and his hunch was right.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 30, 2011 2:44 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 10:33 pm
 

Weekend wrap: Bruins' slow start staggers on

By Brian Stubits

Before the season, there was a lot of lip service given to the Stanley Cup hangover. While I could see the thinking behind it, I wasn't sure I believed it would really have a negligible effect.

While it could be pure coincidence, I'm beginning to believe in the power -- or more appropriately pain -- of the hangover. That's because the Boston Bruins are 3-7 to start the season after being swept in a home-and-home by the not-long-ago struggling Canadiens (by the way, that's three straight wins since the Habs axed assistant Perry Pearn). For those keeping track at home, that's good enough to be last in not only the Northeast Division, but the Eastern Conference.

“Honestly, this is so frustrating,” defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said after Saturday's 4-2 loss in Montreal. “I don’t know. It’s like we can’t buy a break right now and we just keep getting deeper. We need to turn this around.”

Maybe this is a team that used up all of its breaks last season.

But I didn't see this hangover coming this harsh to start the season. I mean, this is the kind I'd get in college when I'd sleep through breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I was a believer in Boston last season, picking them to win the Cup before the playoffs began. I'm a sucker for plus/minus stats for teams, and nobody was better than Boston in that category a season ago. I took that as a sign of quality balance and partly the product of Tim Thomas' career year.

Thomas hasn't been the problem this year, even if he's not living up to the standard of a year ago. But nobody, and I repeat nobody, expected that season again. It was record-setting as far as save percentage goes, the best in NHL history. That's tough to repeat.

No, instead it's been the offense. It's a group that doesn't seem to possess any elite scorers, but as the playoffs showed, there are numerous guys who are good enough. They have just 22 goals in 10 games. Defensively, there 25 goals allowed is the second lowest total in the East behind only Buffalo.

Claude Julien has tried to fix the issue. There has been line mixing. The team's best player has been sophomore Tyler Seguin, who has four goals and six points. Only five players have at least five points through 10 games.

For his part, GM Peter Chiarelli is not panicking yet. Why would he? This current roster is almost exactly the same as the one that won the championship a few months ago. Obviously it is good enough. But Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com reported that Chiarelli might be working the phones already, trying to perhaps find a player to come in and inject some life into Boston.

“I’m always working the phones, but I am a little more diligent these days," Chiarelli told ESPN.com on Thursday.

This is the part where we normally remind you that we're only 10 games into the season. There is still a lot of time for the B's to wake up and defend their Cup in earnest. But it's also worth noting that the Northeast Division and Eastern Conference are looking better this season.

They can't afford to sleep in too long until the headache goes away.

Any be-Leafers now?

When do you start believing in what the Toronto Maple Leafs are doing? Ron Wilson's crew is 7-3-1 begin the year. The last three games, including Saturday's OT win over the Penguins, have been with starting goaltender James Reimer injured. They did get tripped up by the Sens on Sunday night in a great game.

We chuckled at the uber optimism Leafs fans were feeling with the quick start and statements such as Phil Kessel is headed for Wayne Gretzky numbers. Now there is a bigger sample size of 10 games and Kessel has 10 goals with eight assists. It's still a small sample size, however it's easier to take big projections. Don't expect Gretzky numbers, but it could be a monster season nonetheless.

Speaking of monsters, Jonas Gustavsson has fared certainly well enough in Reimer's absence. With Reimer sidelined for a little bit, this was Gustavsson's chance to show he could handle the backup duties himself. So far so good. He was good enough on Saturday for Ron Wilson -- one of the few coaches on Twitter -- to pronoune him the starter for Sunday night's game against Ottawa, a loss.

"Great win. Monster was huge and gets start tomorrow. Komo keeps getting better. Dion and Phil are the best at their positions in NHL!"

If nothing else, let's just say it's time to take Toronto a little more seriously.

Streaking Senators

Raise your hand if you saw the Senators winning six games by Thanksgiving before the season began.

Forget Thanksgiving, the Sens have won six games in their last six outings after a great comeback win over the Rangers on Saturday and then a solid win over the Maple Leafs on Sunday. Things seem to be coming together quickly.

It doesn't come as much of a surprise, but Jason Spezza has been his usual spectacular self. He has 15 points through 12 games (7-8=15). But also joining him in the better-than-a-point-per-game pace are Milan Michalek and Erik Karlsson, who has an NHL-high 12 assists.

Before the season, a lot of folks had the Senators as the preseason favorites for the Nail Yakupov (top draft prospect) sweepstakes. While they still could be, they are at least giving the fans some fun along the way.

A Star is born

Has anybody noticed what Kari Lehtonen is doing in Dallas? Judging by the attendance, the majority of the Metroplex hasn't.

The Stars are 8-3-0 after Saturday's 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. In those 11 games, Lehtonen is 8-1. He carries a goals against average of 1.75. He has been simply stellar for a team now being led not by Brad Richards, but instead by a bevy of young guns and veteran defenseman Sheldon Souray.

Lehtonen is at that magical age in sports when they are supposedly at their peak, 27. After playing in 69 games a season ago, he looks ready to carry the load again this season.

Just another quality goalie from Finland. Ho hum.

As for the attendance? Well Saturday night only 11.740 were announced to be in the stands to witness the win. I understood the reasons for low attendance numbers earlier this season, baseball's Rangers were fighting for the World Series and, well, the Stars lost their big star in the offseason. But with this kind of start and the Rangers now done, I hoped to see more than 11,740 in the crowd. Baby steps, I guess. Baby steps. If the Stars keep winning, they will come.

Night Caps

The Washington Capitals took on the Vancouver Canucks in the Saturday night cap and it didn't last long for Tomas Vokoun. The Capitals goalie gave up three first-period goals, two of them being on Canucks power plays, and was pulled by coach Bruce Boudreau to start the second.

The reason? Boudreau wanted to give the team a spark. Well, his Caps did come back to the tie game, but it all got away from them again in a 7-4 loss. (On a side note, a four-goal performance won't do much to change the Canucks fans' feelings about Roberto Luongo either.)

Some are seeing it as a deal. Boudreau said Vokoun wasn't particularly sharp. Vokoun said he felt fine.

But I'd like to point out that Vokoun had played every game since Michal Neuvirth was given the opening-night start. If nothing else, Vokoun deserved a break.

We're going streaking!

As already mentioned, the Ottawa Senators now have a six-game winning streak going. But they're not alone.

The San Jose Sharks have also won five in a row. More impressively, all five of those games were on the road, including Saturday's shootout win over the Islanders and a win on Friday over the Red Wings.

Speaking of Detroit, it has lost four games in row since beginning the year 5-0. Maybe that 7-1 beatdown at the hands of the Capitals sent them into a funk?

The Islanders are also in an early tailspin. Make that five losses in a row for them after Saturday's loss to San Jose.

Last but certainly not least, the Edmonton Oilers are very quietly in first place in the Northwest Division, surpassing the Colorado Avalanche. That's because the Oilers have won five games in a row after weekend wins over the Avalanche on Friday and Blues on Sunday. The Kids in the Hall are getting a lot of attention for that, but Nikolai Khabibuln has been spectacular.

Quote of the weekend

Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen was very happy with his team's 3-2 comeback win over the Sabres on Saturday night. He took it as a chance to talk a little, umm, anatomy.

Let's just say he appreciated the marbles his team showed by scoring twice in the final four minutes for the win.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 22, 2011 9:51 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 12:54 pm
 

Capitals look good all around in pounding Wings

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- How much do you read into a 7-0 start? Not much other than a team is playing well to start the year.

But what can you read from the Capitals' 7-0 start to the season after a 7-1 rout of the previously unbeaten Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night? Maybe they're more than just hype. This performance is what you can call a statement win. On the heels of a very solid win in Philadelphia?

There is a lot to like. Let me count the ways.

Mike Green is beginning to resemble the player we came to know a few years ago. He tied a career high with four points Saturday, including both Capitals goal on the man advantage.

His presence was a large reason why the Capitals power play is looking lethal again. Sharp, crisp passes and Green firing on net from the point?

"If we could go 2 for 4 every night, we'd take it," coach Bruce Boudreau said.

He isn't alone in the puck-moving duties. A healthy Dennis Wideman has been huge in that department. With an assist here, he has a point in each of Washington's seven games thus far. That ties a career high (noticing a trend?). John Karlson ain't too shabby either.

Their lineup has balance and depth. Marcus Johansson, who was a healthy scratch on opening night, is tied for the team lead in goals with four, including a goal against Detroit. Matthieu Perreault, himself a scratch on a couple occasions, scored twice to bring his total to three on the season. Overall, 14 different Capitals made their way on to the score sheet against the Red Wings -- 14!

"It shows that we got a lot of depth and everyone can score every night," Perreault said. "It makes our team pretty tough to play against. You got to get out there with four lines ready to go every night because our four lines are ready to go every night. It feels pretty good right now."

More Red Wings-Capitals

"That shows the versatility and the depth on of this team," Troy Brouwer added. "Matty P's [Perreault] line scored two, well Matty scored two. Even our shutdown line was scoring tonight."

Players like Alexander Semin -- criticized for his playoff showings in recent years -- and Alex Ovechkin aren't carrying all of the offensive load. It's why Ovechkin's minutes are down this season and Bruce Boudreau wants to keep it that way. Johansson and Jason Chimera are the leading goal scorers so far, not Ovie, Semin or Nicklas Backstrom. Although it is worth noting that with two assists, Ovechkin might be warming up. That's points in three straight games.

They have some much-needed grit in the additions of Joel Ward and Brouwer, who had a team-high five hits Saturday. The line of Ward, Chimera and Brooks Laich -- the aforementioned shutdown line -- has been a nightmare on opposing top lines. Plus, those guys have some skill.

"It's good. That's how you win in this league," Ward said. "When you get each line scoring and in a positive manner, that's huge. That's what you need."

Oh, and there is this pretty sharp goaltender named Tomas Vokoun. He's just been OK if you find save percentages in the .960s good. Since an ugly debut, he's been lights out, allowing six goals in five games.

"It [being undefeated] feels pretty good," Vokoun said. "Obviously I am not custom to that feeling, so it's great. We work hard, we play hard and obviously we have the older talent. We are doing good things."

You are afraid to read too much into things so early in the season, but it's tough not to notice.

If we were to nitpick, though, we have to turn to the statistics. The Capitals are being outshot most nights, including 33-25 against the Red Wings on Saturday. A 28 percent shooting percentage is a little tough to repeat on most nights.

The Wings didn’t put their best foot forward Saturday night, starting Ty Conklin in favor of Jimmy Howard, who played in Friday night’s game. But they beat him like a drum.

"Anytime we lose it's disappointing [but] there's a lot of things as a team that we can take away from this," Conklin said. "I found a lot of ways we were really good, [but] like I said, the difference was in goal."

Tthere is no let up here. The balance is obvious just by looking at the ice time. No forward played more than 17:16 (that was Laich) and none played less than 10:20 (Perreault).

The word that comes to mind now is complete. The wholes are tough to find.

"The guys in here, it's still early in the season, we're real wrapped up and we're real excited to come into every game," Brouwer said.

"Right now we've been pretty hot and hopefully we can keep that going," Perreault said.

With so many contributors, that seems like a distinct possibility.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 14, 2011 5:23 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 5:29 pm
 

Jumping to conclusions and the early NHL season

CBJ1

By: Adam Gretz

We're a little over a week into the regular season which means it's only natural to start jumping to conclusions based on a small sampling of games or head coaching decisions, and we're all guilty of it. Sometimes your initial knee-jerk reaction is accurate, and teams or players are as good or bad as they appear this early in the season, and other times it proves to be way too soon for such a judgement.

What about the Columbus Blue Jackets, one of the three teams in the NHL that has yet to win a game this season as of Friday afternoon. After an exciting summer of big-name acquisitions (Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski) is it still more of the same for an organization that has known nothing but losing since entering the NHL a decade ago? Or is it just a slow start hindered by the fact that one of those players (Wisniewski) has yet to appear in a game?

Is there really a goaltending controversy in Washington because Michal Neuvirth started the first game of the season instead of Tomas Vokoun? And is Vokoun really thee guy the Capitals can trust after struggling through his first start? Is Brendan Shanhan's early season run of suspensions going to be overkill?

In the spirit of Tom Symkowski and his Jump To Conclusions Mat in Office Space, we're going to jump to our own conclusions on those -- and more -- early season storylines .

1) New Look, Same Old Blue Jackets

Our Conclusion: Too soon

A lot of the Blue Jackets success (or lack of success) this season will depend on how well goaltender Steve Mason plays, and so far, it's been a less-than-inspiring start for Columbus and its young goaltender.

But it's too soon to think these are the same old Blue Jackets.

For one, Wisniewski is still serving his suspension that runs through the first eight games of the regular season, and that has definitely been a big blow to the Jackets' lineup. Wisniewski is expected to be -- and will be -- one of Columbus' top-defensemen and anytime you're playing without that sort of presence in your lineup it's going to have a negative impact. The biggest issue for Columbus so far, and an area Wisniewski should certainly help improve once he returns to the lineup, has been its  dreadful power play, which is currently off to an 0-for-20 start. This should get better when Wisniewski returns, and while the playoffs still aren't a given this season, the Blue Jackets are going to improve and take a step forward.

2) Tomas Vokoun Isn't The Answer For Washington/Capitals Goaltending Controversy

Our Conclusion: Crazy talk. And Way Too Soon

When Michal Neuvirth received the opening night start over free agent acquisition Tomas Vokoun it started the discussion as to whether or not the Washington Capitals had a goaltender controversy on their hands. When Vokoun earned his first start of the season in game No. 2 and struggled during a shootout win against Tampa Bay, allowing five goals against the Tampa Bay Lightning, there were concerns that he's not the answer in goal for Washington.

Traditionally Vokoun has been a slow starter throughout his career. Tim Greenberg of the Washington Post, for example, recently pointed out that October has been the worst month of Vokoun's career from a save percentage perspective, and generally plays better as the season progresses. He already rebounded on Thursday during the Capitals' 3-2 win in Pittsburgh with a strong performance that saw him make 39 saves, giving his team a chance to pick up two points in the standings.

Vokoun has been one of the best goalies in the NHL in recent years, and even at 35, should have enough left in the tank to help form one of the better goaltending duos in the NHL with Neuvirth. And both will get the fair share of starts throughout the season.

3) Buffalo is a Stanley Cup contender

Our Conclusion: Probably Accurate

The Sabres were already a playoff caliber team with plenty of excitement around them heading into the regular season, and a pair of impressive wins over Anaheim and Los Angeles to open the season in Europe did nothing to hurt that. The Sabres have one of the NHL's best goalies in Ryan Miller and boosted their defense over the summer with Christian Ehrhoff and, perhaps their best offseason addition, Robyn Regehr, to go along with Tyler Myers.

They were already a top-10 team a year ago offensively -- even with Derek Roy and Drew Stafford missing extended time due to injury -- and only added to that firepower up front by signing Ville Leino to help complement their already impressive group of forwards.

With that type of scoring depth, a trio of defensemen like Myers, Regehr and Ehrhoff, and a goaltender like Miller the Sabres should be one of the Eastern Conference's top contenders for a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

4) Ilya Bryzgalov Will Be Philadelphia's Savior

Our Conclusion: Too Soon

The Philadelphia Flyers finally have their No. 1 goalie and in his first two starts managed to allow just one goal. Problem solved, right? Maybe.

I'm still not sure he's going to be enough to get Philadelphia it's long-awaited Stanley Cup, and for as much as the Flyers revolving door of goaltenders was criticized last season, they were still in the top-half of the league in save percentage and not that far below what Bryzgalov put up in Phoenix's tight defensive system.

It's not that Philadelphia isn't a good team defensively, but I have some concerns over the age -- and and durability -- of their top-two defensemen, Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen, I'm just not sure Bryzgalov is going to be enough of an upgrade to make up for what Philadelphia lost up front this summer.

5) Brendan Shanahan Will Be Too Quick On The Suspension Trigger

Our Conclusion: It's simply been the adjustment period.

New rules (or new wording of one of the rules -- rule 48) and a new person in charge of handing out discipline led to a sudden spike in suspensions during the preseason and sky is falling fears that hitting and all physical contact will be removed from the game. It's no different than when we came out of the lockout when the league put an emphasis on eliminating clutch-and-grab hockey and we saw a sudden spike in penalties, which eventually started to regress once players adjusted to the rules. The same thing will happen with Shanahan and the suspensions. The hammer will be dropped early as players figure out what they can and can not do, and once they adjust, business will go on as usual.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: October 13, 2011 11:04 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 1:14 am
 

Asham, Beagle fight overshadows Capitals win



By: Adam Gretz


PITTSBURGH -- Even though the climate surrounding the fighting in hockey debate is as hot as it's ever been, there's no denying that the vast majority of ticket-buying fans still absolutely, positively love its presence in the league. It's one of the few moments that takes place during a game -- any game -- that brings the crowd out of its seats.

Take Thursday's game in Pittsburgh between the Penguins and Capitals, a 3-2 Washington overtime victory, as an example. The loudest, most extended cheer of the night wasn't reserved for one James Neal's two goals, one of which tied the game with less than five minutes to play in regulation, but for  Penguins forward Arron Asham dropping Jay Beagle in a fight, delivering two huge blows to his face, apparently knocking him out, and leaving a small pool of blood on the Consol Energy Center Ice.

The fight itself, a mismatch between Asham, a veteran of over 60 regular season fights in his NHL career (via Hockeyfights.com), and Beagle, who has participated in just one regular season fight in his 43 NHL games, would have been noteworthy simply for the way it ended; a player getting knocked out and apparently removing a piece of tooth as he skated to the bench. It will probably get even more attention for the two gestures Asham made as he skated toward the penalty box (as shown in the above video).

The fight started after Beagle gave Penguins defenseman Kris Letang a jab to the face along the boards, with Asham coming to the defense of his teammate.

Following the game Asham said the gestures were uncalled for and classless, and that he was caught up in the moment.  Mike Knuble, who scored a goal in the second period, extending his personal point streak to 13 games against the Penguins, said that he believes Asham, who was a teammate of his during their time in Philadelphia, is an "honest player" and was simply "doing his job."

"You hate to see your teammate go down," said Knuble. "Arron's doing his job, I've played with him before and he's an honest player. He's tremendous at what he does and he did what he felt that he had to do."

"Jay got popped a good one," said Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau. "He was playing a really good game I thought and he challenged a pretty tough customer, and a guy that's used to fighting. Jay's not that used to fighting and he got tagged a good one."

Boudreau also said he did not see Asham's post-fight gesture, and while he was seen discussing something with the officials immediately after the incident, he said that he was asking about the distance Asham traveled to engage in the fight and what the referee's interpretation of the rule (presumably the instigator rule) was.

And that's what this night will mostly be remembered for as it becomes another chapter in the fierce rivalry between the two teams, one that dates back to the 1990's when both clubs were reguarly facing each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Both players received five-minute majors for fighting, while Beagle was also penalized for the shot he gave Letang prior to the fight, leaving the Capitals shorthanded, which was nothing new on this night.

The Penguins owned a commanding 41-19 edge in the shots department for the game, aided by the fact they had five power plays in regulation to Washington's zero. In the first and third periods alone the Penguins dominated the shot chart 12-3 and 18-3 respectively. It wasn't until overtime when the Capitals saw their first man-advantage of the evening when Penguins forward Jordan Staal was sent off for tripping at the 2:04 mark of the extra period. Just 44 seconds later Dennis Wideman scored the game-winner.

Tomas Vokoun, the subject of much debate over the first two games of the season due to not being in the opening night lineup and his rough debut in the following game, did his part to silence his doubters by helping to keep the Capitals in the game and giving them a chance to win, stopping 39 of the 41 shots he faced throughout the night.

"He was the difference for us," said Knuble. "Even in that first period, we finished 1-0 we could have easily been three or four. He made some big saves in the third period too when they started to push back a little. He was a big factor tonight." 

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: October 11, 2011 12:33 am
Edited on: October 11, 2011 12:13 pm
 

Capitals debut hardly smooth for Vokoun

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- As far as first impressions go, this one was way down the list.

Tomas Vokoun played his first game with the Washington Capitals on Tuesday against the Lightning, and, well, it was ugly. But don't take my word for it. Take Vokoun's, who still got credit for the win despite giving up five goals on 28 Lightning shots.

“I can’t tell you the last time I remember having as bad a game as I did tonight,” Vokoun said. "It just shows how strong this team is. They literally won today without goaltending. We won the game ... certainly not thanks to me.”

The night got off to a rather ominous start. Vokoun surrendered a goal before every actually facing a shot from the opposition. The Bolts' first "shot" of the night was a centering pass from behind the goal line from Teddy Purcell that bounced right off Caps defenseman Mike Green's skates and in. Not much he could do there.

The second goal, though? Again, beat from behind the goal line, this time the puck squeezing in on his near side. It was ugly. At that point you could already hear the fans inside Verizon Center asking "THIS is the guy that's supposed to lead us to the Cup?"

After a few more Tampa Bay goals -- in Vokoun's defense, there were a couple of nice deflections from the Lightning and another time a man sat on his doorstep in the crease unmanned -- it got to the point that the crowd couldn't help itself anymore. A puck came trickling into the zone and Vokoun calmly shuffled it on to a defenseman, leading to a nice sarcastic ovation from the Caps faithful.

“Once you get a little bit on the heels, you’re misreading the plays and it was just ugly, ugly, ugly game for me,” Vokoun said. “Every time I thought something’s going to happen, the exact opposite [happened]. Sometimes you go through games like that.”

But Vokoun ended up redeeming himself. When it came time for the OT -- thanks to a late Jason Chimera tally, his second of the game -- he was spectacular. He helped the Capitals kill off time on the 4-on-3 and then stonewalled Tampa Bay's only two attemps in the shootout and totally redeemed himself. Or at least saved face.

“If you asked Tomas, he’ll be the first one to tell you that’s probably not the way he wrote the script," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game. "I guess if you’re trying to look at the big picture, it takes a guy with a lot of mental toughness top lay like that. And then in the overtime when you’re having four-on-three against you and you make those three or four huge saves. I got to believe if it was me, I would have been so mentally out of it… and he comes up and he makes those big saves and he makes the save in the shootout. It told me a lot about his character and it ends up as a positive thing even if he didn’t have a positive game for the most part.”

But in the world of first impressions, this one wasn't the best. Coming on the heels of his agent saying the decision to start Michal Neuvirth in the opening game was a slap in the face? That's a little bit of a whole to dig out of. So long as he's as good as he was when it mattered most, that shouldn't be a problem.

“I’m going to make a promise I’m going to get them back sometime when they need me.”

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 7, 2011 9:11 pm
Edited on: October 7, 2011 9:55 pm
 

Vokoun's agent speaks out on goalie situation

TV1By: Adam Gretz

When it was reported on Friday afternoon that Michal Neuvirth, and not Tomas Vokoun, would be the opening night goaltender for the Washington Capitals you had to expect some sort of controversy to build, and it didn't take long for that to happen.

Allan Walsh, the agent for Vokoun, told Stephen Whyno of the Washington Times Friday evening that coach Bruce Boudreau's decision "could be perceived as a slap in the face" to the 35-year-old goaltender who signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Capitals this summer.

It's been an interesting situation to watch from the start as it was widely assumed that Vokoun would be the No. 1 starter due to his recent track record with the Florida Panthers. Neuvirth, however, refused to concede the job that he perceived to be his and talked multiple times about how he planned to keep his spot as the starter. And for at least one night -- the first night of the season -- he did.

More from the Times:
To Vokoun’s agent, it was not only a surprise but it also could be “perceived as a slap in the face.” Allan Walsh told The Washington Times in a telephone interview Friday night that his client was “very disappointed” by the decision.

“He was told he was coming into Washington as the No. 1 goalie,” Walsh told The Times. “They were very public in their comments about that. … There’s a certain symbolism attached to who starts the first game of the season at home. It doesn’t mean he’s not a No. 1 goalie. But this can certainly be perceived as a slap in the face."

Walsh, who is no stranger to taking to Twitter and social media to speak up for his clients, also added that "all around the league, the No. 1 goalie on teams is starting on opening night." And that's how your controversy starts. For now, anyway. Earlier this week Boudreau said that he considers the two players to be "1 and 1B" when it comes to their standing on the depth chart, and anytime you're dealing with two players that are capable of being the starter -- and both of these guys are -- somebody is going to have to swallow some pride every now and take the occassional seat.

Plus, most teams like to get both goalies a start as early as possible at the beginning of the season, and the Capitals' next two games after the opener are against Tampa Bay, their top competition within the Division, and Pittsburgh, their top competition within the conference. It should be interesting to see which goalie gets the call in those two games.

If it's Vokoun, this whole thing likely blows over and becomes much ado about nothing. If it's Neuvirth? Things might get interesting.

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: October 7, 2011 1:44 pm
Edited on: October 7, 2011 4:03 pm
 

Neuvirth to start Capitals opener, not Vokoun

By Brian Stubits

Perhaps the biggest of the Capitals offseason acquisition was the steal of Tomas Vokoun for only $1.5 million. So naturally he's starting the season opener, right? Wrong.

The Capitals threw a minor curveball on Friday by announcing that Michal Neuvirth, not Vokoun, will start the season opener Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes.

"I just found out after practice, and, yeah, I was a little surprised," Neuvirth said after Friday's practice. "I think I had a great training camp and had very good preseason games and probably that's why I'm playing tomorrow."

The news was actually broken by Vokoun himself. When asked if he was at all nervous about Friday's game, he responded honestly.

“No, I'm not really nervous because I'm not playing,” Vokoun said. “Supposedly I'm going to play the next game.

"Certainly, it's a surprise," Vokoun told CSN Washington. "It's not my decision. Sometimes you like [those decisions], sometimes you don't like them. We haven't even played a game yet, so it's premature to be upset. It's not a good feeling, but I've played hockey for 30 years. Things happen."

He says he's not upset about it yet, but it seems clear he's not happy.

Since the Caps signed Vokoun, coach Bruce Boudreau has made no bones about it: Vokoun is his starting goaltender. Neuvirth took a majority of the starts last year, splitting the duties with Semyon Varlamov, now with the Avalanche. But Vokoun has experience, a history of success -- but not in the playoffs -- and the endorsement from management on his side.

Dare we say this is the beginning of a controversy in Washington? It's still too early to answer that question. But it certainly seems unusual to start your backup goalie on opening night ... at home no less. Not the best way to start the relationship with Vokoun for Boudreau.

Neuvirth did play very well this preseason, going 2-1-0 with a .949 save percentage and 1.35 goals against average and perhaps Boudreau is just honoring for that. But that won't quiet the questions.

Bombshell? Not exactly. But surprising? For that it qualifies.

Photo: Getty Images

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