Take a guess which goaltender will start for the Washington Capitals on Thursday night at the Boston Bruins, and you have a good chance of getting it right. Well, you have a better chance of guessing among Tomas Vokoun, Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby than you do of hitting Friday’s Mega Millions lottery drawing.
There’s a case to be made for each one, but it says here that Vokoun should get the nod.
First, it wasn’t that long ago that Vokoun beat the Bruins at TD Garden, making a handful of spectacular saves in a game that could have easily slipped away for the Caps.
“They’re a good team and they make it hard on a goalie: put big guys in front. It’s a good challenge,” Vokoun said after winning in Boston on March 10. “It gets you in the game; you have to battle to see the puck and you’re moving.”
Vokoun, more than any other Caps goalie, thrives on seeing a high volume of shots. The Bruins are third in the league with 32.6 shots a game.
And Vokoun said he’s healthy after a groin injury that has bothered him for weeks. If there’s any doubt with that, Dale Hunter and his staff would obviously be smart to turn back to Neuvirth, who was solid in relief Tuesday.
“Obviously it was a tough game,” Neuvirth said. “It’s not always easy to get put in the game in that. I tried my best.”
Vokoun at his best, at least right now, is better than Neuvirth at his best. With a contract on the line July 1 and a potential chance at his first playoffs since 2007, Vokoun isn’t leaving anything out there.
“You look at it where we are. It’s a lot riding on the season for me, too, so there’s nothing to save anything for,” Vokoun said. “Whatever happens, happens. [When] I play I’m going to try and help the team win the game. If it happens to be one game or two or 10, I can’t tell you now. There’s nothing to save it for.”
Going with Vokoun isn’t rolling the dice, either. Holtby could be a great goaltender one day; Alex Ovechkin said last week the 22-year-old could be the best in the league. But right now he’s young and was throw in the middle of a playoff race.
Vokoun has been here before. This is why he signed with the Caps.
“I’m almost 36 years old and … for some of the guys, there’s so many more chances. Probably not for me. So this rides a lot for the team and for me on these next five games. So if you can you want to be in there,” he said. “For me, it’s focus on winning the game or doing my part to give the team chance to win the game.”