Going into last offseason, the two top goaltenders on the market appeared to be Ilya Bryzgalov and Tomas Vokoun. The Philadelphia Flyers acquired Bryzgalov’s rights from the Phoenix Coyotes and signed him to a nine-year, $51 million contract to be their franchise goalie.
The Washington Capitals, meanwhile, dealt Semyon Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche for a king’s ransom – first- and second-round picks – and appeared confident to go into this season with Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby until Vokoun was suddenly available. They signed the 35-year-old to a one-year, $1.5 million contract.
Bryzgalov and Vokoun will be linked because of their opposite fortunes over the summer, but that might not be the end of their connection. On Tuesday night and Wednesday, Vokoun critiqued himself very harshly following a rough game against Bryzgalov and the Flyers.
After the loss, he called it a “terrible performance” and referred to the game as “an outrage” a day later, when he went even further into discussing his struggles this season.
“I just don’t feel comfortable moving,” said Vokoun, who deemed himself healthy. “It’s almost like I’m kind of ahead of the play. I’m not squaring up to shooters and I’m trying to be everywhere and I’m nowhere. That sometimes comes from trying to do too much.
“When you feel good, you’re calm and you move crisp and you stop and you know you’re going to stop it. Now, lots of shots are adventure. Even if I do stop it, I don’t control it well.”
Vokoun also said he has given up as many soft goals in the past month.
“Trust me, if I knew the reason I would fix it long time ago,” he said.
Bryzgalov had a similar meeting with the media Oct. 27 after he allowed four goals on 10 shots in a 9-8 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. At the time, Bryzgalov had allowed 18 goals in four appearances – far worse than even Vokoun now.
“I’m terrible and I want to apologize in front of the fans, in front of my teammates and I don’t know what’s going on,” Bryzgalov said. “I have no answer for you guys. …
“I have zero confidence in myself right now. “I’m lost in the woods right now.”
Vokoun didn’t quite admit to being lost among any trees, but this week is the closest he has come all season to saying he couldn’t figure out exactly what he was doing wrong. Vokoun has a .906 save percentage this season, which ranks 25th in the NHL.
The silver lining for Caps fans is that Bryzgalov bounced back and has gone 11-1-1 since his “terrible” night against the Jets.
Vokoun has been watching video of his first 10 games and intends on figuring out the issue through that and plenty of practice. Unlike Bryzgalov, he might not need to explain his way out of the woods.
“Everything could be fixed,” Vokoun said. “I’ve just got to stay focused, work hard in practice, do my stuff and get my good feeling and everything back. That’s all I can do.”