Tag: goalie competition

Tony Romano, Evgeni Nabokov

Evgeni Nabokov to make first appearance for Islanders tonight against Calgary


At one point, Evgeni Nabokov didn’t want to play for the New York Islanders. After being plucked off re-entry waivers by the Isles away from the Detroit Red Wings who were looking for backup goalie insurance with the former Sharks superstar, Nabokov decided sitting at home was better than playing out the string with the Islanders.

What a difference a new season makes. Nabokov will be in goal tonight in Calgary as the Isles take on the Flames. Nabokov entered the preseason looking to compete for a job with the Islanders and perhaps playing ball the right way with the organization to attract interest from another team looking to deal for him. Luckily for Nabokov, if he’s looking to land a job on Long Island he’s got a good shot at making it count.

Nabokov’s competition for a NHL job consists of oft-injured assumed starter Rick DiPietro as well as last season’s surprise revelation Al Montoya. Kevin Poulin is also in camp with NHL experience from last year and hoping to get a shot as well, but with a guy like Nabokov in camp with his résumé in the league that changes the dynamic for competition.

If Nabokov can show that his awful performance last year in the KHL was just an aberration and he can be a top flight goalie again, all of a sudden the Islanders are awash in goaltending depth after having none last season after trading Dwayne Roloson to Tampa Bay. For a guy as old as Nabokov is (he’s 36), he’s still got time to play as goalies have shown they can play into their 40s.

Nabokov getting a look tonight against the Flames is the most important start for him personally. If he plays well and shows he’s still a capable top flight starter, he can either help the Islanders or another suitor thrive. It’s either that or he ends up being irrelevant as an NHL scratch or buried in the AHL left to figure things out.

Michal Neuvirth wants to challenge Tomas Vokoun for Caps #1 goalie job

Michal Neuvirth

When the Capitals signed Tomas Vokoun to a one-year free agent deal this summer it essentially cemented Vokoun in as the starting goalie for Washington and gave them the lights-out goaltender their team hasn’t had since Olaf Kolzig was in his prime. With Semyon Varlamov sent off to Colorado in a trade, it cleared the path for Vokoun to get a job in D.C.

Of course, Michal Neuvirth was, with all respect to Varlamov, the #1 guy in goal for the Capitals last season and now he’s getting bumped off by a guy in Vokoun that was his childhood hero growing up in the Czech Republic. For Neuvirth, it’s providing him the opportunity to show his idol what he’s got and, perhaps, steal a few more starts than you’d think.

While Caps coach Bruce Boudreau has said that Vokoun is most likely going to be his starting goalie, Neuvirth tells Tarik El-Bashir of The Washington Post that he’s not giving up the starting job without a fight.

“Tomas might be one of the top three goalies in the league,” Neuvirth said. “So it’s a big opportunity for me to show I can be as good as this guy or even better. Obviously, I want to play the most games and I still want to be the number one goalie.”

Reminded of Boudreau’s comments, Neuvirth fired back, “It’s still summer. We still have three weeks until training camp. Whatever Bruce is saying, it doesn’t bother me. We’ll see what happens in training camp. Obviously, Tomas is a great goalie and I respect him.”

Neuvirth wouldn’t be expected to say anything other than that, really. But the stern look on his face suggested that it wasn’t just lip service.

It’s great that Neuvirth is fired up to try and keep his job. It’s not as if Neuvirth had a bad season last year, he did great in going 27-12-4 with a 2.45 goals against average and a .914 save percentage with four shutouts. Comparing that to what Vokoun did last year with the Panthers where he was a workhorse going 22-28-5 with a 2.55 goals against and a .922 save percentage on a much worse Florida team, the choice seems academic.

Of course, their play on the ice will determine how things play out in the end. That said, Vokoun has been one of the league’s best for the past few seasons, he was just unfortunate enough to have a bad team in front of him to help him win more games. That’s an issue Vokoun won’t have in Washington. Having a more-than capable duo of goalies, however, is huge for Washington. While the Varlamov-Neuvirth coupling was strong, a duo of Vokoun and Neuvirth should challenge for the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed. With the Caps new defensive system figured into things and their improved defensive unit, it might not matter who starts in goal on a given night for Washington.

Still, when it boils down to who “the man” will be come playoff time, unless Vokoun’s game erodes completely he should be the man. If Neuvirth is able to play himself into the competition, however, the Caps hopes of winning the Stanley Cup this year will be stronger than ever.

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

Bruce Boudreau
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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.