Tomas Vokoun gets to start tonight’s game against Tampa Bay for the Washington Capitals (7 p.m. on Versus). If we’d have told you that were going to be a big deal before the season, you’d probably tell us we were crazy. Instead, it’s part of the season’s most surprising controversy.
Bruce Boudreau’s choice to start Michal Neuvirth in the Caps’ season opener against Carolina caught not just Vokoun off guard but the rest of the NHL world as well. After all, when a player is brought in to be the team’s starting goalie and they don’t start the first game, that’s going to be questioned.
Boudreau has a lot of pressure heading into this season and with the additions the Caps made in the offseason, the one position that figured to be without drama was goalie. Now, it’s the biggest story of the early part of the season for Washington and one that has Caps fans rushing to defend Boudreau while outsiders raise more questions about what he’s doing behind the bench.
Neuvirth had the more impressive preseason while Vokoun struggled. Rewarding good play is something a coach should be commended for. Instead, Boudreau is under fire for not being able to manage personalities the right way. Whether there’s a controversy as to who the starter is or not (those on the inside say there isn’t one), it’s going to be a story line that hangs around all season long.
Where Boudreau is getting things right is getting these issues figured out early in the season rather than having them pop up late in the year and potentially derail a playoff run. For Boudreau’s sake, he’d better hope that things do get figured out by the time the playoffs roll around, or else it will be his job that’ll be on the line.
It’ll be on Vokoun to show that Boudreau made a mistake by beating the team that took Washington out of the playoffs last year. Is Bruce Boudrean a mad genius or mad man? We’ve got all season to figure that out.