Author's note: Yes, I actually did real research for this. Aren't you proud? Just like a real serious blogger ;)
Far be it for the Caps to start a season without a little uproar. This season’s began with the announcement of young net minder, Michal Neuvirth, getting the nod to play between the pipes for the season opener on Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes. With everyone assuming Vokoun would get the start; many fans, journalists, and bloggers were up in arms over this announcement. It seemed you couldn’t click anywhere on a hockey news or blog site without seeing some kind of comment or article about it. With Saturday’s win in the books, tonight we finally got to see Tomas Vokoun in the crease for his first regular season game as a Washington Capital against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
You may have heard that Vokoun was disappointed not to start on Saturday. Many feel your #1 goalie starts the regular season home opener, and being new to the team, it would be a chance for the home crowd to give him a big welcome. Giving Vokoun the start on Saturday against the Canes could have resulted in Neuvirth getting his season start tonight against Tampa. But, what if it were looked at from another direction?
First, let’s consider the opponents, starting with Carolina. Neuvy had a fine performance against Carolina last season, with a shutout against them on 10/27/10. Not so much Vokoun. On 11/5/10, Vokoun was pulled only 10:49 into the first period after giving up two goals. On 12/15/10 Vokoun lost 4-3 to the Canes, and then on 1/7/11, Vokoun lost to the Canes 5-3.
Now, let’s consider Mondays opponent; the Tampa Bay Lightning. Neuvirth only had one regular season win against Tampa which was on 11/7/10 (final score 6-3). The only other regular season game Neuvy played against Tampa was 3/7/11, where he left game after getting a shot to the cage and was replaced by Holtby. And, of course, we all remember the post season games where all four resulted in losses for Neuvirth. On the other hand, Vokoun’s record against Tampa last season was a little different. Vokoun recorded a 6-0 shutout against them on 10/6/10, a shoot out win on 11/27/10 and a shoot out loss on 1/21/11.
So, how about a brief review of the games. Saturday, Neuvirth gets the win. It’s a tough game that goes to overtime, but a win is a win. Some excellent saves (28 in all), some goals that really couldn’t have been stopped, terrific performance in overtime. A respectable .903 save percentage. Monday, Vokoun looked like he got off to a shaky start, but also gets a win with some really great veteran saves in overtime and totally denying Tampa in the shoot out. Two games, two wins.
Personally, I’m gonna say that Vokoun’s shaky start is due to lack of experience with this team and the fact that the coverage from the defense could have caused some adjustments that weren’t made in time. As a matter of fact, even though Vokoun admitted it was his worst start, gotta say the defense didn't help him out as much as they do with Neuvy. But, then again, they are used to Neuvy. Hopefully, more time and practice with guys in actual play will help Vokoun get comfortable and we will see the value of GMGM’s gamble.
Are we going to have to endure another year of who’s #1 and who’s #2? During the Capitals Convention this year; at the goalie panel; Dave Prior said he considered the 2 goalies as partners rather than competitors for the #1 spot. Boudreau had said in an interview, he considers them #1 and #1A. Both sound like good plans to me. In hindsight (which is always perfect 20/20 vision), I have to say I like how Bruce played these two goalies. Based on past experiences with the two opponents involved, it was the right call in my opinion. What do you think?