Vokoun Change Serves Dual Purpose
Around 8:00 P.M. on March 7, 2013 the Pittsburgh Penguins found themselves in a fairly dire situation inside the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
When the horn sounded at the end of the first period, the fans rejoiced and the players celebrated as the Flyers took a 4-1 lead into the locker room against their cross-state rivals.
The Penguins were getting beaten at every turn. Costly turnovers and a few soft goals allowed by Marc-Andre Fleury made a Penguins comeback seem next to impossible. The Flyers had forced the Penguins into bad decisions, bad penalties, and completely carried the momentum.
Enter Tomas Vokoun.
The Penguins returned at the start of the second period with a renewed vigor. It was a different team, a smarter team, that took the ice and quickly reversed the flow of play.
Pascal Dupuis got on the board off of a scrum in front of the net. The Penguins never looked back.
The result was one of the most exciting comebacks in recent memory. It was a key moment in the season, and it was a key win that built the momentum that was needed in building the now infamous win streak.
Tomas Vokoun’s appearance in net had turned the tide for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
And now, staring at a three games series with the New York Islanders in a 2-2 series tie, Dan Bylsma is hoping the goaltending change he’s made for game five is going to have a similar effect.
After that game, Brooks Orpik referenced Vokoun’s leadership and his demeanor as one of the main reasons the Penguins were able to pull back in front.
“He came in and really stabilized the game. He took a lot of their emotion out of it. He took the crowd out of it.”
Marc-Andre Fleury’s forte is the ability to make the brilliant save. His side to side movement and athleticism have already earned the now veteran goaltender a Stanley Cup ring.
But with the Penguins turning pucks over, and shots from behind the net and off the end boards starting to grow eyes and find their way into the net, a change is needed.
But it goes way beyond that.
After the aforementioned game in Philadelphia, Chris Kunitz referenced a need to tighten up the game and “make his goalies feel better.”
The situation the Penguins find themselves in now is as much about goaltending as it is the Penguins need for a wake up call.
The two situations are similar. In Philadelphia, the Penguins struggled in the same areas as they do right now. The change to Vokoun was as much about Fleury’s struggles as it was the overall poor play of the team in general.
This situation is exactly why Ray Shero acquired the rights to Tomas Vokoun in the offseason.
Vokoun was the insurance policy in case what happened last April in Philadelphia started to happen again this season.
Vokoun’s leadership and unflappable nature bring a different demeanor to a defensive unit that drastically needs that type of presence behind it.
Dan Bylsma says Vokoun was acquired to play in big games. It doesn’t get any bigger than Thursday night.
Let’s just hope Vokoun’s entry into this spotlight is as successful as it was two months ago in Philadelphia