At times during the second period Saturday night, all that stood between the Capitals and a much closer game with the Detroit Red Wings seemed to be the presence of 35-year-old Tomas Vokoun. The veteran netminder, whose play appears to improve with each outing, stopped 15 of 16 shots in the middle stanza against the Red Wings en route to Washington’s 7-1 drubbing.
“I was lucky a couple of times, honestly,” Vokoun said afterward. “Some of those saves are desperation saves. Sometimes they go in and sometimes you are just fortunate that guy is not able to lift the puck or something, but saying that, you battle and you work for your luck. [Detroit is] obviously a very good team. Very skillful, very tough, skate hard, put pressure, play the right way. I mean it was a whole lot closer game than 7-1 or whatever the score was.”
No save may have been more crucial than a left pad stop on Danny Cleary during the second of Detroit’s two-man advantages that maintained Washington’s 3-1 lead in the second period. It’s saves like that, and the reliability of Vokoun to make them, that help boost the rest of the Capitals in close games.
“He’s been unbelievable,” Mike Green said. “So fun to play in front of him. He battles so hard even when guys are in front of him, he’s making those extra saves. He’s just been outstanding. I don’t want to pump him up too much but it’s a pleasure to play in front of him.”
Vokoun owns a 6-0-0 record and is off to his best start since the 2005-06 campaign in Nashville when he went 7-0-0 to start the season.
The ugly debut he had as a Capital, giving up five goals on 28 shots to the Tampa Bay Lightning, seems all but forgotten now as Vokoun boasts a .944 save percentage and 1.80 goals against average. He’s stopped all but 11 of the 198 shots he’s faced so far this season.