The Curious Case of Tomas VokounPosted: 23/04/2013
The Penguins have injury problems. Although many of the guys are only day to day and would be playing if it were the playoffs, it’s impossible not to look at the all star team that the Penguins are missing at this time.
In light of the injuries the Pens have continued to do what they do: win. And in no small part that comes down to Tomas Vokoun. He absolutely stood on his head against Boston and he replicated it with 34 saves on 35 shots against Ottawa. I’m not going to pretend that Vokoun has been the better goalie this year, but my position is that he’s been far more than a “number 2” goalie with the Penguins. At the end of the win streak Dejan published this profound feel good story about Vokoun’s role in turning around the Penguins’ season, so I know I’m not alone.
As of last night Vokoun became the 28th goaltender in the entire history of the NHL to win his 300th career game. That’s pretty elite company. And I have a pretty good feeling that few of the other 27 three hundred game winners did it for so many years on crap teams like Vokoun did.
If an old sports aphorism is “you gotta play the best players,” then an equally old aphorism is “you have to have a clear cut #1 goalie in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.” And here is the trouble with Tomas Vokoun: I grant you, he’s not the number one goalie, but he is one of the Pens’ best players.
Not since the 2007 Ducks has a team used their second goalie even five times in a postseason, and in that season J.S. Giguere ended up leaving the team for three games in the quarterfinals, which gave Ilya Bryzgalov 3 of his appearances, the last two came in relief of Giguere in the Conference Finals. That means that even the ultra-embarrassing Chris Osgood played the whole postseason, two years in a row! So that’s strike one against Voki getting an opportunity to play much this postseason.
Strike two comes in the form of “hot hand policy.” Think back to the 2010 playoffs and Jaroslav Halak (and if not see below), that’s hot hand policy. Was he really the number one guy? No, that’s why the Canadiens let him walk the following off season, but the Habs had good luck with him and he carried them to the Conference Finals. Marc Andre Fleury will get the first crack to prove himself, as long as he doesn’t blow it, he’ll be able to hold court. And if he does get really hot why should the Pens break up his rhythm?
But there is no third strike. Voki was brought in to challenge MAF and to prevent a similar collapse in the playoffs this year. Those responsibilities don’t end when the second season starts. Looking back at the Halak example: he didn’t start the playoffs, he took over after Carey Price struggled. The same could happen here, although we hope not.
BUT Fleury’s baby could be problematic. By all means we want him to have an excellent private life, but the baby will create challenges that he hasn’t dealt with yet, and since this is a hockey blog all we really care about is the hockey. So this is what we suggest…
The Pens CAN continue on their approximate 3 for MAF, 1 for Voki rotation. The playoffs are brutal and I’m sure MAF won’t be mad so long as he can play the most important games. This allows the Penguins to stretch their lineup in all the right ways. Is that gonna happen? No idea. But for as much as the Penguins have invested in Vokoun, it only seems right to give him the opportunity to play for his paycheck. What do you think of this? Is our plan needlessly complex or is it just right? Let us know in the comments.