December 05, 2011
Tomas Vokoun(notes) hasn't played all that well for the Washington Capitals since arriving as a free agent last summer, posting a 10-7 record and a .909 save percentage that would be his lowest since before the lockout should it stand. In fact, he's blamed his own play for having helped roll Bruce Boudreau out the door.
The Capitals need him playing better, and Monday night looked like a prime opportunity: a huge Southeast Division game against the first-place Florida Panthers — Vokoun's former team and a team that he shut out, 3-0, for his only blanking of the season.
So, naturally, Michel Neuvirth gets the call tonight for the Capitals. The hell? From the Washington Times:
"Those are decisions coach makes. I'm a paid employee and I don't make those kind of decisions," Vokoun said. "I'm a hockey player. I'm here to play games. When they tell me I'm playing, I'm playing. When they tell me I'm not playing, I'm not playing."
Dale Hunter made his thought process sound simple. "It's just a choice. There's not much to explain," the Caps' coach said. "Me and Dave Prior talked about it, and we thought it was a good way to go."
Neuvirth made 32 saves on 34 shots Saturday night to pick up his first win since Nov. 4.
Allan Walsh Twitter rant in 3...2...
Sure, getting Neuvirth into a groove would also be a good thing for the Capitals, and that's achieved through regular work. But the underlying message here is that the Capitals coaches believe Neuvirth gives them a better chance to win against Florida, which by default means they don't believe Vokoun does.
Put it this way: The Philadelphia Flyers didn't trust Ilya Bryzgalov's(notes) mental toughness to go into Winnipeg and beat the Jets, but they played him against the Coyotes both home and away. And Bryzgalov's mental resolve makes Vokoun look like Margret Thatcher.
Here's Vokoun with the Miami Herald, on his return to Florida: