Bruce Boudreau

Surprise to no one: Coach Bruce Boudreau says Tomas Vokoun should be Capitals #1 goalie

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When the Washington Capitals signed veteran goalie Tomas Vokoun to a one-year, $1.5 million contract, it was viewed to be one of the savviest moves of the summer. Caps GM George McPhee got something the Capitals never truly had in their recent years in trying to win the Stanley Cup: A proven #1 goalie.

With Vokoun joining Michal Neuvirth, last year’s top goalie in Washington, there were some fans that thought, maybe, that Vokoun was coming to Washington to wear a ball cap on the bench and mentor Neuvirth while he started games. Apparently some Caps fans are hard to impress these days. Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, thankfully, is a bit more level-headed in his thoughts on Vokoun and what he can bring to the table in Washington.

Katie Carrera of Capitals Insider gets Boudreau’s take on what Vokoun will do as a Capital.

Bringing in the veteran Vokoun certainly changes the plan in terms of a workload for the goaltenders throughout the organization. When asked if Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth would have a genuine compeition for the top spot in Washington, though, Boudreau said the 35-year-old Czech’s experience all but pencils him into that role at this stage.

“We’re always going to play who we think is the best,” Boudreau said. “But if you’re looking at a guy that’s had the experience and done everything and if they’re a No. 1 goalie… You’ve got to give Vokoun the respect that he’s coming in and he’s going to be the No. 1 guy. We’ll see where it goes from there.”

Here’s how it’ll go from there: Vokoun will start, Neuvirth will back him up and learn a lot from his fellow Czech countryman.  Suggesting otherwise means either your Caps-tinted glasses need a thorough cleaning or you’re a fan of a rival team hoping to sink the Caps chances before the season even starts.

While Vokoun has seen a steady workload in his years with Florida, coming to Washington where Neuvirth serves as a more than capable backup gives the Caps one of the better goalie tandems in the NHL. Neuvirth was no slouch in his first season in D.C. and having him able to avoid a potential sophomore slump while continuing to improve his game learning from one of the best is a great thing. After all, you can’t expect that Vokoun will stick around for another year in Washington after this year and with Braden Holtby getting to get his game honed in the AHL full time, the Caps are more than set in goal for the future.

Winning the Stanley Cup now, however, is their priority and Vokoun brings them closer to doing that than their young duo would have.

PHT Morning Skate: Columnist argues McDavid’s already NHL’s most important player

Connor McDavid
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Although Connor McDavid‘s NHL career has only just gotten started, is he already the league’s most important player? (Sportsnet)

While we’re on the subject of McDavid, what should we expect from him for the remainder of his rookie campaign? (NHL Numbers)

Jack Jablonski was paralyzed on Dec. 30, 2011 at the age of 16 while playing high school hockey, but that hasn’t ended his pursuit of a career in hockey. He’s spent the last two years hosting a weekly hockey-talk radio program and has now joined the Los Angeles Kings as a communications intern. (Orange County Register)

Arizona State has earned its first NCAA victory. (Arizona Republic)

The 2015 Calder Cup champion Manchester Monarchs got their rings. (LA Kings Insider)

The Anaheim Ducks and the Make-A-Wish Foundation gave 13-year-old Kai Quinonez, who was diagnosed with aplastic anemia four years ago, a tremendous experience. (Orange County Register)

Canucks spoil Ducks’ home opener via shootout

Adam Cracknell, Ryan Miller

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Ryan Miller and the Vancouver Canucks have already found a groove just three games into the regular season. The Anaheim Ducks are still looking for a way to get their offense going.

Radim Vrbata and Alex Burrows scored in the shootout, and the Canucks spoiled Anaheim’s home opener with a 2-1 victory Monday night.

Miller made 28 saves and Adam Cracknell scored in regulation for Vancouver, which beat the Ducks for just the third time in their last 12 meetings.

Vancouver improved to 2-0 on the road in the young season, with Miller yielding just one goal in each game. That’s encouraging to the veteran, who played in only four games after Feb. 22 last season while dealing with a knee injury.

“I’m just trying to go out there and battle and compete,” said Miller, who stopped a third-period redirection by Carl Hagelin with his mask. “That was my mindset coming off an injury. That’s what it really comes down to, getting back the focus early on. I didn’t play hockey for a while. The technical stuff I worked on this summer and I pay attention to in practice.”

Even with twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin combining for just one shot, the Canucks won the new season’s first meeting between the Pacific Division’s top two teams last year. Anaheim won its third straight division title, while Vancouver finished a surprising second before losing in the opening round of the playoffs.

Sami Vatanen scored and Frederik Andersen stopped 24 shots for the Ducks, who have scored just one goal while going winless in the first two games of a season that begins with Stanley Cup aspirations.

Anaheim was shut out in San Jose on Saturday in its opener before returning to Honda Center for its first real game on home ice since Game 7 of the Western Conference finals, when Chicago advanced to win the Stanley Cup.

Kevin Bieksa played nearly 24 1/2 minutes in his second game with the Ducks. Anaheim acquired the veteran defenseman from Vancouver last summer after he played 10 years with the Canucks, who drafted him in 2001. Bieksa was reunited with Ryan Kesler, the longtime Vancouver forward who moved to Anaheim before last season.

“We fought back a lot better than we did in San Jose,” Bieksa said. “So we need to keep building on this in the rest of this homestand here. If we do that, we’re going to be all right.”

After the Ducks failed to score on a power play during their first official taste of 3-on-3 overtime hockey, Vrbata and Burrows got stuttering, halting shots past Andersen, who stopped Burrows’ shot before watching it trickle under him.

“I’ve done that move a few times against a few goalies, but I don’t think I’ve ever done it against Freddie,” Burrows said. “So I tried it, and I’m lucky it went in tonight. It hit his stick and trickled in.”

Jakob Silfverberg scored in the shootout for the Ducks, who lost their home opener for just the second time in six seasons. Anaheim’s talented offensive players aren’t clicking so far, but nobody is panicking yet.

“I think we’re doing things the right way now,” Vatanen said. “We battled hard. We got some good chances. The season is long, so we’re going the right way.”

Both teams opened at a furious pace, with end-to-end chances throughout. After a scoreless first period, Vatanen got the Ducks’ first goal of the season when his long, low shot went through Mike Santorelli‘s screen.

Cracknell evened it later in the period with a sharp-angled shot that somehow deflected off Andersen’s shoulder or stick and landed behind the goalie. The journeyman got his first regular-season NHL goal since April 4, 2013, and just the seventh of his 85-game NHL career.

“Pretty fortunate goal on their part,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said.

NOTES: A small group of vocal protesters gathered outside Honda Center to call for the suspension of Ducks D Clayton Stoner, who faces charges in Canada related to a 2013 grizzly bear hunt. … Cracknell hadn’t scored a goal in his last 49 regular-season games, although he got a postseason goal in 2014 for St. Louis.