WILL VOKOUN KEEP IT GOING?
If you turn on the talk shows, NHLNetwork, and ect, you’ll likely hear pundits express doubts that Tomas Vokoun can keep it going as Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals gets underway in less than three hours. I’ve heard it all week and a 6-1 post-season record with a 1.85 GAA and .941 save percentage still doesn’t have a lot of great hockey minds believing in Vokoun.
Why is that?
Because Vokoun came to Pittsburgh as a backup, pundits and analysts look at him as a backup and he’s really not.
“Somewhat surprising for some people I guess that he’s doing well for himself,” GM Ray Shero said. “He’s been one of the better goaltenders in the National Hockey League. He’s just been playing in Nashville and Florida for a long time. Really not in the media spotlight. Think everyone respects what Tomas has done in the last seven and eight years in the league. Save percentage, goals against, shutout, I mean he gets a shutout this year and right after the game someone said it’s his 50th career shutout, I didn’t even know that. That’s incredible…. 50 Career shutouts is quite a mark and I think that says a lot about him as a goaltender and what he’s done in the league here,” Shero said.
TWO AREAS VOKOUN HAS UPGRADED TEAM DEFENSE OVER FLEURY
Vokoun has posted a better save percentage than Marc Andre Fleury the last five seasons and he’s been an upgrade over Fleury in two critical areas:
1. Rebound Control – The Penguins are a team defensively that are not great at clearing the front of the net and it’s one of the few areas this team can be exposed. Vokoun doesn’t have the athletic ability and lateral movement that Fleury has, but Vokoun is a much more sound goalie position wise, which has led to better rebound control.
2. Stopping the puck on wraparound/dump in’s: Vokoun is not Martin Brodeur when it comes to his puck handling ability, but Vokoun’s ability to stop the puck on hard wraparounds is very underrated. It’s an area management saw as an upgrade over Fleury when they pursued Vokoun via trade last summer and Vokoun has helped the Penguins defense retrieve pucks much more effectively than Fleury. A goaltender who can settle the puck down on hard wraparounds is huge for defensemen in alleviating incoming forecheckers.
WHO HAS THE EDGE IN GOAL?
The Boston Bruins come into this series with many believing they have the edge in goal with Tuukka Rask. But, I wouldn’t call it a significant edge in goal.
Rask is a very good goaltender but is he a great goaltender? He’s hasn’t reached that “greatness level” yet, though the potential is obviously there.
Of the two goaltenders, the pressure is on Rask. As good as the Bruins are and I feel they are going to be a very tough out, Rask not only needs to be good in this series but he needs to be great for the Bruins to upset the Penguins.
As for Vokoun, he’s reached the point where his leash is much longer than it was his first couple playoff games this post-season. The Penguins coaching staff strongly believes he can lead the Penguins to a Stanley Cup.
If we see Marc Andre Fleury this series, it’s not going to be a good thing and it’s going to mean either that Vokoun is injured or he is struggling and the Penguins are down a couple games in the series and are in need of a jump start.
Fleury, though, has been sharp in practice this week and the Penguins do feel his game is back in order. “Marc’s game is back in order right now I believe through practices and so forth,” Shero said.
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