Vokoun shuts the door in the shootout. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)
This certainly wasn’t what Tomas Vokoun had in mind for his first game as a Washington Capital. Five goals. Bronx cheers. And, surprisingly, a win.
“It just shows how strong this team is,” Vokoun told reporters after Monday’s 6-5 shootout victory. “They literally won today without goaltending. So what can I say? … It was just ugly, ugly, ugly game for me.”
“It’s the first game, obviously you want to leave a good impression for the fans and everything,” he continued. “Couldn’t tell you the last time I remember having as bad a game as I did tonight. But we won the game, certainly not thanks to me. The team play great. I think it shows a lot of character, guys battle, came back four times. I’m going to make a promise I’m going to get them back sometime when they’re going to need me.”
To say the least, it’s been an interesting last few days for the veteran Czech netminder. Supposedly the starter coming out of training camp, he was snubbed in favor of Michal Neuvirth in the season opener. Vokoun’s agent Allan Walsh wasn’t too pleased with Head Coach Bruce Boudreau’s decision and happily ripped it publicly. Not the best situation, especially for a player trying to fit into a new team. Normally a “crap” (in Vokoun’s words) showing would merely exacerbate the problem. But thanks to the shootout moves of Matt Hendricks and Alexander Semin, it actually turned into a good thing in Boudreau’s mind.
“If you asked Tomas, he’ll be the first one to tell you that’s probably not the way he wrote the script,” the coach said. “I guess if you’re trying to look at the big picture, it takes a guy with a lot of mental toughness to play like that. … You touch the puck and the crowd’s booing you and it’s your first game in there and you want to make an impression, your agent has spouted off in the paper about it being a slap in the face and everything, 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. It ends up as a positive thing, even if he didn’t have a positive game for the most part.”
And though he may not like some of Boudreau’s choices, Vokoun echoed his comments. “I’m old enough to know you’re going to go through bad games and bad breaks, you just don’t want to have too many of them, then it’s not an accident,” the 35-year-old said. “It’s obviously what you make of it. Certainly not happy, but glad I got the win for the team because they deserve it so much and it would have been a really tough one with the effort we put out if we didn’t get two points.”
“I’m just glad it’s over,” he added.
Vokoun isn’t used to much goal support. Spending the last four years with the bottom-feeding Florida Panthers, one or two-nil loses sometimes felt common place. Not so with the Capitals. Though the team shifted to a move defensive game last season, this year, so far at least, the Caps have been an offensive powerhouse, netting nine goals in two games so far. Simply put, Vokoun got lucky Monday night.
“I would probably lose 99 out of 100 games and I won it,” he said. “It’s a game and sometimes it’s hard to understand.”
It was certainly a strange night. Endless goals, weird bounces, and an amount of stick penalties that would make the likes of Alex Semin blush. Even 42-year-old Dwayne Roloson, a veteran of 13 NHL seasons, had trouble wrapping his mind around it.
“The craziest in all my years of playing,” the Bolts’ goalie said. “Unfortunately tonight, they scored more than us.”