Tomas Vokoun

Tomas Vokoun learns from Evgeni Nabokov’s example on when to say “yes” to a deal


The Washington Capitals stunned the NHL world yesterday when they signed one of the best goalies in the league, Tomas Vokoun, to a one year $1.5 million deal to become the Caps starter and turn the Capitals into the offseason’s leader in the clubhouse (sorry Philly). A big part of the equation of the Caps landing the best free agent goalie was the man himself.

Heading into the offseason, the 35 year-old Vokoun seemed likely to land in one of a few spots. Teams like Phoenix, Colorado, and his own team Florida had openings in goal. Vokoun could’ve stayed in Florida to help the Panthers with their total rebuild, but they opted to go with Jose Theodore instead. Phoenix decided that former Lightning goalie Mike Smith was their man in goal and the Avalanche swung a deal with Washington to get Semyon Varlamov to be their starter.

All of a sudden, Tomas Vokoun was a potentially high-priced goalie alone on an island with no place to go.

That position is one that last year’s top free agent goalie, Evgeni Nabokov, found himself in. After a stellar career in San Jose, Nabokov at age 35 was poised to hit the market as the hottest of goaltending commodities. After all, teams like Chicago and Philadelphia despite Stanley Cup finals appearances were in the market for goalies. The Flyers went so far as to acquire Nabokov’s rights to negotiate with him. Instead the Blackhawks opted to sign Marty Turco on the cheap and the Flyers went full speed ahead with Michael Leighton and Nabokov was out of options to his liking.

While Nabokov could’ve taken reduced offers in both years and money like other goalies did that summer, he opted to jump to Russia and the KHL instead. With Tomas Vokoun potentially looking at a similar fate he decided to change up his personal view on things as The Washington Post’s Katie Carrera shares.

“The money side, it’s not great, but I think the opportunity is unbelievable,” Vokoun said in a conference call with reporters. “Obviously it was disappointing day for me on July 1. For whatever reason I was in a bad spot, and Washington came in.”

Throughout Vokoun’s career he’s played with mostly losing teams. After eight years in Nashville from 1998 to 2007 he moved on to Florida where the Panthers haven’t seen the playoffs since the 1999-2000 season. That kind of career path can lead you on the road to being thankful for a shot to play for a winner, something Vokoun took very seriously. After all, he was looking at the possibility of not having an NHL job at all even in spite of being one of the best and most unfortunate goalies the last three years in the NHL.

Whereas Nabokov and his stats and records showed that he had a major case to make as the go-to guy, some couldn’t get past Vokoun’s win-loss record while playing for some very bad Panthers teams. Instead, his last three years were stellar putting up save percentages of .926, .925, and .922. His goals against averages over that time are equally consistent going 2.49 three seasons ago and 2.55 in the last two. And those are his numbers on a bad team, imagine what he might be able to do on a team that’s newly committed to playing tough defense and is capable of scoring a ton of goals. All of a sudden things are looking good for Tomas Vokoun going into free agency after next season.

If the gamble on Vokoun’s end pays off, he’ll show that sometimes swallowing your pride is worth it in the long run.

Report: Likely no suspension for Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan

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Alain Vigneault went there in comparing Matt Beleskey‘s hit on Derek Stepan to the notorious check Aaron Rome delivered on Nathan Horton many moons ago, but the league seems to disagree.

While Rome sat through that memorable Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, it sounds like Beleskey won’t face any further discipline, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

In the unlikely event that anything changes, PHT will make note.

The next game between the Rangers and Bruins takes place at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11. Will these bad feelings linger?

Hellebuyck debuts with victory as Jets best Wild

Connor Hellebuyck
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Dustin Byfuglien had a goal and assist, Connor Hellebuyck made 14 saves to win his NHL debut and the Winnipeg Jets spoiled left winger Zach Parise‘s return from a knee injury by beating the Minnesota Wild 3-1 on Friday.

Mathieu Perreault added his second goal in two games and Nikolaj Ehlers‘ goal late in the third put the game away.

The Jets won on the road for the first time in their last seven tries and for just the third time in their last 11 games.

Ryan Carter scored for Minnesota, finally getting a shot past Hellebuyck that made it 2-1 midway through the third period.

Hellebuyck was college hockey’s top goalie in 2013-14 and the goaltender on the U.S. team that won a bronze medal in the 2015 world championships.

Minnesota finished with a season-low 15 shots, which was also a season low in shots allowed for the Jets.

Wild fans at the Xcel Energy Center let out a roar when it was announced before the game that Parise would start, but not even his return could spark Minnesota.

After Jason Zucker was whistled for an elbowing penalty behind the net, Perreault took a pass from Byfuglien and zipped it past Devan Dubnyk to give Winnipeg a 1-0 lead with 3:34 left in the second period.

Byfuglien made it 2-0 early in the third when his odd-angle shot hit Dubnyk in the back of the skate and went in for his seventh goal.

Carter’s goal bounced off of Winnipeg defenseman Mark Stuart and past Hellebuyck to give Minnesota some momentum.

The rookie didn’t get rattled, however, stopping a big shot from Jason Pominville with 3:11 to play.

Just 11 seconds later, Ehlers got loose on a breakaway and put the game away.

Winnipeg’s defense came into the game ranked 29th in goals allowed, but had little problem preventing Minnesota from generating quality scoring chances.

The Wild have just one win in their last six games. Parise was Minnesota’s leading scorer when he sprained a knee ligament on Nov. 5.

NOTES: Wild F Justin Fontaine missed his 11th game with a sprained MCL, but has a chance to return for Saturday’s game against Dallas according to coach Mike Yeo. … The Wild went 4-3-1 without Parise. … Jets RW Blake Wheeler had an assist and now has points in 18 of 24 games.

Blackhawks baffle Ducks with late magic; Kane’s streak at 18 games


The Chicago Blackhawks may not be at peak-level right now, but they’re still a tough team to finish off.

For most of Friday’s game, it seemed like the story would be about John Gibson possibly elbowing into the Anaheim Ducks’ No. 1 role, continuing that franchise carousel.

Instead, it was about yet another tremendous comeback for Chicago, as the Blackhawks scored two goals in the final two minutes of the third period to erase a 2-0 deficit. Artem Anisimov than scored the OT GWG.

Stunning stuff … though definitely not unprecedented.

With less than 30 seconds remaining, Patrick Kane grabbed an assist on Duncan Keith‘s 2-2 goal. Kane extended his point streak to 18 games, tying a record for America-born players.

For the Ducks, it’s yet another gut punch, one that makes you wonder how they’d fare in another playoff series against Chicago (if they can even get there … a big if).

Bruce Boudreau is bummed:

Tyler Johnson’s injury: One of several ominous signs for Tampa Bay

Carl Gunnarsson, Tyler Johnson
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The gloom only seems to lift from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s cloudy season in small drizzles.

Sure, they’re on a three-game winning streak, but the Washington Capitals seem to be on the verge of ending that with a thud (they’re currently up 3-0 going into the third period).

Update: Washington managed a 4-2 win, giving the Capitals a four-game winning streak.

That’s the least of the Bolts’ concerns right now, really, as Tyler Johnson left Friday’s game seemingly injured.

The word seemingly comes into play because details are scarce, as reporters note.

/ominous music plays

If you look at Tampa Bay’s upcoming schedule, things could get downright stormy.

They face the Islanders at home, but they do so tomorrow so they won’t be well-rested. It gets worse from there.

Dec. 2 – 6: Three-game road trip against the California teams

Dec. 10 – 12: Two home games (one vs. Ottawa, one vs. Washington)

Dec. 14-18: Another three-game road trip

Long story short, they close up a back-to-back set at home tomorrow and then play six of eight on the road.

/even more ominous music

The end of 2015 looks friendlier, but for a team that seems to be cratering here and there … things look a bit morbid.

We’ll see if they can keep fighting, perhaps with a comeback tonight?