The Pittsburgh Penguins are currently ahead in their series against the Ottawa Senators 2-0, which is a far cry from how things went for them in the first round of the playoffs. In their series against the New York Islanders, the Pens went through six games and a pair of goalies before finally figuring things out — or so it seems. Tomas Vokoun replaced long time netminder Marc Andre-Fleury midway through the series against the Isles and so far the Penguins haven’t lost a game.
But while the resurgence of Sidney Crosby is making headlines, especially after his hat trick in Game 2, the real key to the Penguins winning the Stanley Cup may be the pads and skills of their netminder Tomas Vokoun.
Look back at all the great runs made by teams in the postseason and you’ll see the correlation between winning and excellent netminding. Vokoun isn’t considered one of hockey’s elite goalies but those seem to be crafted in the postseason when stopping the puck counts more than it ever has before. Guys like Jean Sebastian-Gigure and more notably Jonathan Quick have crated legacies out of masterful netminding performances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs which bodes well for Vokoun and the Pens.
It’s impressive that Vokoun has kept the Senators at bay in the series so far but go back to how nicely and quickly he put the Isles down in that series and you’ll see we could be watching a budding legacy for Vokoun. He’s been around and at age 36 isn’t going to be playing for a new contract with his play over the course of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Rather, Vokoun is playing for the Cup and to secure his hockey legacy — one that is already off to a great start.
The Pens have weapons all over the ice, but as the Isles showed against Pittsburgh, you can score all the goals you want but if you can’t stop them you’re not going to get far. Vokoun isn’t the flashiest name on the roster but he’s the most valuable right now and the fate of the Pens season rests on his pads.