Vokoun - - The Best Bargain in Hockey
The Washington Capitals are a team with Stanley Cup expectations once again. They have added some grit to their team, they play more of a defensively responsible system, but the biggest change is between the pipes. They wanted to get a veteran who could lead them to the promised land and somehow they were able to sign Tomas Vokoun to a 1-yr, $1.5 million dollar deal. The year before he made $6.3 million, that’s quite a drop yet he’s a part of an undeafeated (6-0) team who made quick work of the talented Philadelphia Flyers a few days ago with a 5-2 win.
At the age of 35, the Czech backstop is putting winning the Stanley Cup ahead of his bank account. Some might say the market was bad and he had no choice, but I say he could have gone overseas and made much more than he’s making now, but he didn’t do that. He made a commitment to the Caps. He knows he’s a part of a special team that is expected to play well into June.
On some nights he might face as few as 20-something shots and for some goalies that’s a problem but his experience tells him something else.
"Well, at least I'm used to it. It's not like it’s something I'm not used to,” he said with confidence. “Sometimes it’s an easier way to play. I mean especially on this team, I'm going to be faced with different kinds of games and it's a learning experience for me to learn how to deal with one or two shots, and some maybe up to eighteen. Whatever comes my way, my job is to stop the puck and that's what I'm worried about."
He happens to have Alex Ovechkin and a very explosive power play to lean on when games are close and that certainly gives him the kind of confidence that his last team, the Florida Panthers never gave him.
"He's got so much pressure from everyone to score sixty goals and get a hundred points. To me the best players in the game are guys who aren't a hundred point guys, they're eighty point guys, but they play solid games both ways,” said Vokoun. “I think he's trying to learn to play both ways and be more useful to his team then maybe he was in the past- I don't know how many goals and points he had- but I think for him he has to adjust his game a little bit. But he's still a player with great shots, lots of strength and speed… in five to ten games; we can talk about how many goals he has. No matter who you are, this is a tough league, you play against tough players every day, and it's never going to be easy. If it was easy, everybody would play in NHL.”
Ovechkin was guarded talking about that win against the Flyers because he probably doesn’t want to see expectations soar out of control this early in the season.
“Yeah, I think we have chances and we use it. You can see how we score goals. We shoot the puck, it was a rebound and we found it. And, you know, the win is the most important thing.”
So far this season Vokoun has a stingy 1.95 GAA and an eye-popping .936 save percentage. That’s a few points higher than his very respectable career number of .917. If he can stay the course these “new look” Caps should be the team to beat in the East.
photo courtesy of the Florida Panthers.