Tomas Vokoun made his eighth consecutive start for the Capitals Saturday night against the Vancouver Canucks but after giving up three goals on 17 shots the veteran netminder was yanked from the net. He was replaced by Michal Neuvirth, who gave up four goals on 26 shots in the final 40 minutes of play, at the start of the second but the ultimate result of the game didn’t change as Washington suffered an ugly, decisive 7-4 loss to the Canucks.
After the game, Coach Bruce Boudreau explained why he made the switch.
“My thoughts were I just didn’t think Tomas was very sharp,” Boudreau said. “He played eight games in a row at a very high level. I thought the first and third goals weren’t very good. I thought it was a good a time as any, Neuvy was sharp in practice, and I thought this was as good a time as any to get him involved in the game again.”
Earlier in the day however, Boudreau said he would prefer to have Neuvirth practice for another day or two before putting the 23-year-old in his first game since the season opener on Oct. 8.
“Michal had two good practices under his belt in the last two weeks,” Boudreau said on Saturday morning. “You’d like to see him have another good one or two before he gets a chance to play again.”
Saturday marked the first time Vokoun had been pulled from a game since March 3, when he gave up two goals on the first three shots against Montreal while with the Florida Panthers. The 35-year-old netminder, who was making his eighth consecutive start on Saturday, entered the game with a 6-1 record, a 1.83 goals against average and a .940 save percentage.
But Vokoun blamed himself for the first Canucks’ tally when he went out to play the puck but ultimately Maxim Lapierre flung it off the goaltender’s skate and into the net.
“Unfortunately I was waiting for the puck, it never got past the [trapezoid where goaltenders can handle the puck],” Vokoun explained. “It was kind of 50/50 if it’s going to get to me or not. I stay there and he just banked it off me and that’s just a bad goal, at a bad time give them all the momentum.”
Told Boudreau didn’t believe he was “very sharp”, Vokoun said he felt fine.
“I felt pretty good honestly, I definitely made a mistake on the first goal,” Vokoun said. “The second goal there’s not much I can do and you know stop the first shot and the puck go right back to [Chris Higgins]. I was already down and he just roofs it in the top shelf.
“Third goal I never saw the shot,” Vokoun continued. “For whatever reason you’re trying to find it, but our guy [Brooks Laich] was trying to block it but it went right by him. I just heard it, it kind of sounded like a post but it went in. [Boudreau’s] got a better view of it than me. I’m playing so I can’t really see myself. Internally, I didn’t feel bad but obviously it was 3-1 so coach made a change. That’s his decision.”
Several Capitals also said that their defensive mistakes, turnovers, lazy penalties and so on didn’t do much to help the goaltenders.
“We left our goalie out to dry a few times,” Matt Hendricks said. “It wasn’t exactly what we wanted that’s for sure.”
Said Troy Brouwer, who was one of two Capitals to finish the contest with a plus rating: “Sometimes when you change goaltenders it has nothing to do with the actual goaltender it’s just to try to give the team a spark and I think that’s what it did.
“I feel bad for Tomas because two power-play goals and a tough one from behind the net which happens,” Brouwer continued. “There’s not much he could have done, not much better he could have played. He’s been unbelievable for us as of late and sometimes it’s just to try to get a spark out of the guys.”