With the Caps surging (7-3-0) and just one point back of Southeast Division-leading Florida, head coach Dale Hunter isn’t messing with success — he’s giving goaltender Tomas Vokoun his 10th straight start tonight against the Islanders.
The 10 consecutive starts marks a season high for any Caps goalie this year and all but cements Vokoun as Hunter’s No. 1, something that wasn’t always the case. The low point of Vokoun’s season coincided with the Boudreau-Hunter coaching change — from Nov. 15 to Dec. 26 he went 4-8, getting yanked in a 7-1 loss to Toronto and a 5-1 loss to Philly — and seemed in real danger of losing his starting gig to Michal Neuvirth.
But that no longer appears the case as Vokoun’s recent run of inspired play has bolted Neuvirth to the pine. The 35-year-old Czech netminder is 7-2 in the previous nine games having stopped 267 of 284 shots for a .940 save-percentage and 1.97 goals-against average — numbers that even Neuvirth recognizes as tough to beat.
“Tomas is playing great right now. Nothing I can do other than work hard,” Neuvirth told the Washington Post. “It’s pretty tough. But Tomas been good right now. He’s been good and he’s winning. So why would we change anything?”
As for Vokoun, he seems to appreciate the heavy workload Hunter’s piled on. It’s nothing new — Vokoun once played 73 games for the Predators one season — but a little different now that he’s a little longer in the tooth and the ninth-oldest goalie in the NHL.
“For me it’s a lot tougher when you play once in awhile, when you gotta kind of build the momentum every time you play then you sit for a long time, don’t know how you’re going to respond,” Vokoun said. “For me, it’s not a problem I’m somewhat used to that, to me it’s an easier way to play than the other way around.”
If nothing else, the New Jersey Devils seem like they won’t be the sort of team a contender can essentially mark off as a “W” on their calendars.
The Montreal Canadiens may not be in a position to take opponents lightly with Carey Price on the shelf, but whatever the case may be, they saw their four-game winning streak end in frustrating fashion on Saturday.
After falling behind 2-0, the Devils scrapped their way back into it, eventually riding a John Moore overtime goal to a 3-2 OT win.
If Montreal needs an obvious bright side to look on considering this hiccup, Alex Galchenyuk‘s hot weekend may be a good thing to look at.
Tonight’s loss may smart a bit anyway, however.
If you want to summarize the Capitals – Maple Leafs game in one sentence, you could do worse than:
“Washington is hot as Jonathan Bernier is cold.”
The Caps reeled off a 4-2 win against Toronto on Saturday, giving them five straight wins. They also jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division today, as they keep climbing while the New York Rangers are experiencing some growing pains.
Again, James Reimer can’t get healthy and back in Toronto’s net too soon:
With this win, Washington is now 17-5-1, leading the Metro by one point with 35 standings points. They also hold a game in hand against the Rangers, and no other Metro team even has 30 right now.
Measuring stick stretch begins
Tonight’s game began a “prove-it” month-and-change for Washington.
This contest began a three-game road trip, and they’ll also play six of seven away from Washington.
It’s pretty rough through the start of 2016, really. The Capitals will only enjoy three home games through Jan. 9.
In other words, the Capitals seem like a convincing East contender, but look out if they remain hot through the next 5-6 weeks.
Yes, there’s a lot of drama surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins, whether it’s founded on serious problems or merely speculation.
It’s easy to get swept up in all of that and ignore the fact that, hey, they still have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Those two can really heal wounds with their on-ice play, and in Saturday’s case, Malkin is taking over against the Edmonton Oilers.
His spin-o-rama goal above was a real jaw-dropper. He also scored Pittsburgh’s second tally:
These highlights feel like Malkin’s way of saying “It’s going to be just fine.”
Update: It wasn’t enough for a win, however, as the Oilers beat the Penguins 3-2 via a shootout.
Fighting is down more or less across the board in the NHL, but the Tampa Bay Lightning might be the franchise least interested in dropping the gloves.
Ryan Callahan vs. Kyle Okposo already has some name recognition to it, yet it gets some bonus points for being the Bolts’ first fighting major of 2015-16.
It … probably loses those bonus points in being run-of-the-mill.
Hey, be fair; the Lightning are clearly out of practice.