starting goalies

Tomas Vokoun should start vs. Penguins tonight

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After a sloppy win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday, many probably wagered against Tomas Vokoun playing tonight. His chances of becoming the Washington Capitals’ starter for Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins increased substantially once word surfaced that Michal Neuvirth is dealing with a lower body injury, though.

Chase Hughes of CSNWashington reports that Braden Holtby (pictured) has been recalled to suit up as one of the Caps’ two goalies tonight. One would assume that this situation opens the door for Vokoun to “redeem” himself against the Penguins, but you never know with head coach Bruce Boudreau.

Holtby played so well in limited work last season that people made some rather bold claims that Semyon Varlamov became the third best goalie on the Capitals. That was a bit hasty, but the young goalie certainly made the most of his opportunities in 2010-11.

The odds are still on Vokoun starting against the 3-0-1 Penguins, but we’ll keep an eye out for reports to the contrary. Either way, it looks like the Capitals’ goalie depth will be challenged for a second straight season.

Devan Dubnyk wins right to get bludgeoned in Oilers net

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It’s not safe to assume that opening night starter = number one goalie. That being said, it’s often a statement from teams, whether Bruce Boudreau admits it or not.

If you subscribe to that way of thinking, then you probably will believe that Devan Dubnyk is the Edmonton Oilers’ top option in net. Typical NHL practice procedures lead many to believe that Dubnyk will start in the Oilers’ season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight.

The Oilers are making a sensible move with Dubnyk, even if they probably will stare sadly at the paychecks they’re going to hand Nikolai Khabibulin for the next two seasons. The Bulin Wall is quite broken down and obviously faced some embarrassing legal issues, but he owns a 35+ contract so the Oilers can’t just bury his cap hit in minor league shame.

Chances are high that the “lucky winner” of the starting job won’t look very glamorous in Edmonton. Their defense’s sad state is reflected in just how much they miss Ryan Whitney, a blueliner whose shortcomings in his own end take away from his point producing abilities.

If Dubnyk can manage to keep the dangerous Penguins from completing a sweep of Western Canada, the Oilers will feel great about this choice – and maybe even a lot of confidence for the future.

Michal Neuvirth swipes Caps’ opener start from Tomas Vokoun


Here’s a dispatch from the Department of Expected Overreactions (OK, it’s actually from’s Chuck Gormley): the Washington Capitals will start Michal Neuvirth instead of Tomas Vokoun during their first game of the season against the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct 8.

Considering the very reasonable Vezina Trophy hype for Vokoun, this news might startle many people. Let’s calm that down right now with the same banter you should use after every season-opener: it’s just one game. My expectation is that Vokoun will make 55+ starts in 2011-12 and be an excellent contributor, while Neuvirth should get a healthy number of relief opportunities.

The word is that Neuvirth had a really good training camp and will get a reward for his hard work. Head coach Bruce Boudreau is justified in giving his former starter a nice treat since Neuvirth might not be extremely happy about getting usurped. Boudreau was coy about his decision, though.


Feel free to over-analyze that statement if you’d like, but again, I would expect Vokoun to be the number one goalie in Washington. Perhaps this indicates that it will be more of a “timeshare” situation than some expected, but it’s better to have two strong options in net than none.

Guy Boucher makes Dwayne Roloson the Lightning’s Game 6 starter


As we speculated after weighing the pros and cons yesterday, Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher said that Dwayne Roloson will be the team’s starter in Game 6.

Roloson has been the Lightning’s go-to goalie since he arrived in Tampa Bay via a trade with the New York Islanders. He went 18-12-4 with a 91.2 save percentage and 2.56 GAA during his regular season starts for the Lightning but really ramped things up in the playoffs, going 9-5 with a 92.5 save percentage and 2.51 GAA.

Roloson will put his undefeated streak in elimination games on the line in Game 6. (In this year’s playoffs alone, he fought off elimination three times against the Pittsburgh Penguins and only needed one chance to end the Washington Capitals’ season in Round 2.)

This decision essentially indicates that Boucher went with Roloson’s experience and reliability over Mike Smith’s size and puck handling skills. That’s a tough break for Smith, who only allowed two tough goals in his limited playoff appearances. It seems like Smith’s passing skills are a good fit for Boucher’s 1-3-1 system, so I wonder if the team might be wise to re-sign him as their backup next season.

Still, you cannot fault Boucher for going with the “safer” choice, even if Roloson has been struggling in this series against Boston. Perhaps he simply needed a breather to get back to his previously exceptional level? You can find out in Game 6 on Versus at 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

Dwayne Roloson or Mike Smith? Guy Boucher faces tough Game 6 decision


Contrary to my instinctive guess, Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher opted to start Mike Smith instead of Dwayne Roloson in Game 5. The Boston Bruins beat Smith and the Lightning 3-1 in that contest, taking a 3-2 series lead, thus leaving Boucher with a conundrum going into Game 6. Will he give Smith another chance or go back to Roloson with the team on the verge of elimination?

Why the Lightning should start Smith

Many will study the titanic triumph of Tim Thomas and think that Smith was the weak link of that game (especially since Smith allowed two goals on 19 shots), but Smith didn’t have much of a chance on either Bruins tally. The Lightning carried most of the play in Game 5, but Boston managed a few breaks and Thomas stood on his head after allowing a goal on the first shot he faced.

Smith hasn’t made many mistakes in his scant 2011 playoff appearances. He stopped all 29 of the shots he faced in two relief stints for Roloson in this series, putting aside all eight in Tampa Bay’s 6-5 Game 2 loss and stopping 21 out of 21 during the Bolts’ come-from-behind win in Game 4. Again, it’s tough to beat him up too much for the two one-timers that foiled him in Game 5, so he really hasn’t allowed a softie in the postseason so far.

The two biggest strengths Smith brings to the ice are his size and puck-handling skills. He must have absorbed some passing lessons from his days backing up Marty Turco in Dallas because he’s very comfortable moving the puck around. That stands in stark contrast to both Roloson and Thomas, who are often an adventure when the puck is on their sticks.

While you won’t confuse Smith with Martin Brodeur from a talent standpoint, his passing skills make him almost as nice of a fit for Guy Boucher’s 1-3-1 system as Brodeur was for Jacques Lemaire’s neutral zone trap.

The advantages of going back to Roloson

Scrappy old Roloson might not be as polished as the more-orthodox Smith is in some areas, but he is significantly more playoff-proven. Roloson has played in 48 postseason games in his career (going 27-17) while all three of Smith’s career playoff appearances came in this series. If that doesn’t underscore the experience disparity enough for you, there’s also Roloson’s uncanny 6-0 record in elimination games.

It’s also tough to deny the notion that Roloson got them this far and deserves a chance to see this thing through. Even after getting pulled in two of his four starts against Boston, Roloson still has a sterling overall save percentage (92.5) and a solid 2.51 GAA in the 2011 playoffs.

Roloson has been the go-to guy since he was traded to Tampa Bay, so a vote for Rollie is a vote for stability.

Plenty of motivation for both goalies

One interesting subplot is that these goalies will be unrestricted free agents this summer. They’re both hoping to improve their stations in the free agent market by winning big playoff games and each one wants to prove they are still relevant at the NHL level. The 29-year-old Smith wants to show that he deserves at least a backup/1b role while the 41-year-old Roloson might want to play another season before hanging up his pads.

If keeping their team in the playoffs wasn’t much of a dangling carrot, securing a job for next season should provide ample motivation for both Smith and Roloson.


The bright side of this story is that Boucher has two solid options in net. Roloson is more likely to “steal” a win while Smith’s puck-moving skills mesh nicely with Tampa Bay’s defensive system. To some extent, Boucher has nothing to lose … unless his team loses, of course.