Kovacevic: This 1-2 punch begins in goal
TribLIVE Sports Videos
NEW YORK -- Even on a purely vindictive level, there was so much for the Penguins to treasure from this 2-0 weekend whirl up I-95 that, honestly, it's hard to know where to start.
A small but necessary slice of revenge against the Flyers?
James Neal arranging that devilish three-stars twirl?
How about boos raining from the Madison Square Garden blues all through the 6-3 slashing of the alleged Stanley Cup favorite Rangers on Sunday night?
Or for-real Vezina Trophy goaltender Henrik Lundqvist getting yanked?
Or John Tortorella calling Brooks Orpik's sensational open-ice hit on rookie Chris Kreider “clean” and using it to admonish his own team by saying, “Maybe we need to get whacked around a little more” with a straight face?
Ah, yes. Hockey is back, and in the best way a Pittsburgher could imagine.
Sure, it's just two games. But not only can the Penguins skate into their home opener by reveling in the misery of two detested divisional rivals — the Flyers and Rangers are a combined 0-4 — they also can build off a couple of strikingly sound all-around performances.
“We took care of our end, stayed in our roles and got the job done,” Tyler Kennedy was saying. “That's a nice feeling for all of us.”
Undoubtedly. But from this vantage point high atop both events, what mattered most to the Penguins in these two games was this simple 1-2 equation:
1. Marc-Andre Fleury was really good one day.
2. Tomas Vokoun was just as good the next.
Yeah, that was the backup coolly stopping 31 of 34 shots, including a wild first period in which the Rangers flung 13 pucks and countless bodies his way.
The three goals?
A 5-on-3 rebound, a point-blank tip and a Rick Nash breakaway.
No shame there.
“Tomas was strong,” Dan Bylsma said. “The puck was bouncing a lot, and we know they're a team that gets pucks into that blue-paint area. He had to stand strong, and I thought that was key for us.”
Not remotely surprising.
And you could gather as much from how Vokoun reacted, too.
“You never know how you'll feel after a long time off like we've had,” he said, “but I felt like I was prepared. It was pretty good.”
I couldn't help but ask if a goaltender who's spent so much of his career facing so many pucks — no one in the NHL saw more in the past five years — might actually have welcomed that opening foray by New York.
“Yes, I think so.”
Translation to all that: The man knows what he's doing.
You can see it with a cursory glance at the resume. Games played over his past nine NHL seasons: 69, 73, 61, 44, 69, 59, 63, 57 and 48. Cumulative goals-against average: 2.55, and never higher than 2.68 in any of those seasons.
That's a workload that would even make an old keeper like Eddie Johnston blush.
“This guy, he's a horse,” E.J. was saying the other day. “He's really going to help us.”
I believe that, too, largely because Vokoun is visibly willing to take on a helping role.
It would be easy — and not all that uncommon — for someone with such a background to big-league everybody upon showing up in Pittsburgh. You know, act like being a backup is beneath him. But there's been nothing of the kind. He's hung around well after practice. He's been vocal — pretty loud, actually — during drills. And most important by far, he's let it be known — to the Penguins and the public — that he knows his place.
As Vokoun told the Trib last week, “Listen, there is never going to be a controversy.”
Funny, but the broadest smile in the locker room might have belonged to Fleury, dressing right next to Vokoun.
“The guy's pretty good, huh?” Fleury beamed. “That's going to be huge for us.”
Right. Because Fleury still represents the Penguins' best chance at a fourth Stanley Cup. And Ray Shero's smart addition of Vokoun represents the best chance of Fleury entering the playoffs fresh for a change.
That's why I'd expect the coach will — and should — go right back to Vokoun again next weekend, either in Winnipeg or Ottawa.
Either 1 or 2.
Dejan Kovacevic is a sports columnist for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @Dejan_Kovacevic.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Stupid Steelers
- Steelers running backs Bell, Blount will face drug charges
- Braves’ error, Sanchez’s sacrifice fly in 9th help Pirates snap long skid
- UPMC earnings turn positive, but pressures mount
- Pa. trooper injured in pursuit in Washington County
- 1 injured in Pa. Turnpike crash in Beaver County
- It’s only exhibition, but these Steelers could solidify roster spots vs. Eagles
- GOP: Wolf ‘Fresh Start’ campaign violates Pennsylvania law
- Berkshire socked with $896K penalty
- Retailers await kids’ verdicts at checkout
- Carroll incident draws police from 4 departments