Goaltender Tomas Vokoun was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week. (Getty Images)
NEW YORK (March 17, 2008) -- Calgary Flames right wing Jarome Iginla, Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Petr Sykora and Florida Panthers goaltender Tomas Vokoun have been named the NHL's 'Three Stars' for the week ending March 16.
FIRST STAR -- JAROME IGINLA, RW, CALGARY FLAMES
Iginla led all NHL scorers with eight points (five goals, three assists) in four games as the Flames (37-25-10, 84 points) ended the week even in points with the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche atop the Northwest Division. He notched one goal and two assists in a 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues Mar. 10, becoming the Flames' franchise leader in career goals with 365. He recorded one goal and one assist in a 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals Mar. 12, tallied a pair of goals in a 6-4 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers Mar. 13 and closed the week with one goal in a 4-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks Mar. 16. Iginla ranks third in the NHL points race with 87 (45 goals, 42 assists) in 72 games and also ranks third among goal-scorers, trailing Washington's Alex Ovechkin (57) and Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk (49). SECOND STAR -- PETR SYKORA, RW, PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Sykora recorded six points (three goals, three assists) in two games, including the game-winning goal in each contest, as the Penguins (41-24-7, 89 points) finished the week one point behind the New Jersey Devils for first place in the tight Atlantic Division race. He notched the game-winner and added one assist in a 7-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres Mar. 12 and posted a season-high four points (two goals, two assists) in 7-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers Mar. 16, reaching the 25-goal mark for the ninth consecutive season. Sykora is fourth on the Penguins in scoring with 58 points (25 goals, 33 assists) in 72 games. THIRD STAR -- TOMAS VOKOUN, G, FLORIDA PANTHERS
Vokoun posted a 3-0-0 record with a 1.67 goals-against average and .946 save percentage as the Panthers (35-31-8, 78 points) extended their winning streak to seven games, tying a franchise record, and moved within two points of an Eastern Conference playoff berth. He stopped 27 of 29 shots in a 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders Mar. 12, made 32 saves in a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers Mar. 14 and closed the week with a 29-save effort in a 3-1 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers Mar. 16. Vokoun has posted a record of 29-26-7 with a 2.74 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and four shutouts in 63 appearances this season. He leads all NHL goaltenders in shots faced (2,031) and saves (1,862). After receiving the NHL's Third Star Of The Week, Vokoun was on a conference call with media across the nation.
Tomas Vokoun Conference Call Transcript--March 17, 2008
DAVID KEON: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's public relations department, and I'd like to welcome you to today's call. With us we have Florida Panthers' goaltender Tomas Vokoun. Thanks to Tomas for taking the time today to answer your questions, and thanks to Brian Goldman of the Panthers public relations department for helping to arrange the call
Earlier today Tomas was named the "Third Star" for this past week for backstopping Florida to three wins, extending the team's winning streak to a franchise-tying seven games. In his first season with the Panthers, Tomas has appeared in 63 games, posting a record of 29-26-7 with a 2.74 goals against average, .917 save percentage and four shutouts
With an overall record of 35-31-8 for 78 points, the Panthers are tied for second in the Southeast Division, trailing first place Carolina by five points. They also trail eighth-seeded Philadelphia by two points in the race for a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference Thursday Florida hosts Carolina at the Bank Atlantic Center, one of eight remaining regular season games, all against divisional rivals.
Thanks again to Tomas for taking the time today to answer your questions. We'll open it up now.
QUESTION: A couple of questions about the playoff race. First of all, you played on a playoff team the last couple years. What has Florida been doing differently in the past couple weeks that has put them in a position where they can actually challenge for a place as opposed to what was going on earlier where they were sort of floundering near the bottom of the standings?
TOMAS VOKOUN: I think the biggest thing is we played much better without the puck. We have trouble before in our defensive zone, and obviously with this season coming down pretty fast, there was not really much room for error for us if you look at the standings. I think the team and obviously the players started realizing that, and we have been playing a lot better defensively, and that means we've been playing much better without the puck. The players, they do their defensive assignments a lot better than we did in the first part of the season.
QUESTION: Just a follow?up question, you actually mentioned the standings. Does it help that the two teams that look most catchable, Philadelphia and Boston, are somewhat struggling right now? Does that give you hope because often it is so hard to make up ground in the NHL, and even if they were playing .500 you wouldn't be as close as you are, but they seem to be struggling, too.
TOMAS VOKOUN: Yeah, obviously we are in the bad position. We're playing catch?up, and obviously we need help from somebody not to do well. You look at where we are a little while ago, and obviously we definitely need help from somebody. If everybody would keep winning then there's no way you can catch them.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about the confidence level right now in the dressing room? Is it as high as it's been all year?
TOMAS VOKOUN: Definitely. I mean, I think confidence obviously comes from winning and playing well. When you do that, then your confidence level is high. I think if you asked me three, four weeks ago, we lost some really close games and our confidence wasn't good at all. It's natural when you're winning and playing well, your confidence goes up. I think our confidence has to be at the highest point through the whole season because this is obviously our ?? it's been our best part so far.
QUESTION: This hot stretch has somewhat coincided after the trade deadline, and I wonder, there was so much speculation on your captain maybe being traded that maybe it relaxed everyone in the room after he was not?
TOMAS VOKOUN: Yeah, I mean, it could be part of it. I think personally Olli is playing so much better. It doesn't help to anybody's performance when you're hearing those kind of things all the time. If you or not want to think about them, it gets to you, and I think the last few games he's just been playing unbelievable. It's not just about scoring points and scoring goals, but he's playing good both sides of the puck, plus he's producing points. I think definitely ?? I would imagine for any player, it's got to be now he knows he's going to be here and can relax. It doesn't help anybody to play with uncertainty if you really want to be on the team or not.
QUESTION: What kept you guys from bottoming out as a team after you had that run of games where you blew a lot of two?goal leads and couldn't bring home wins? What kept you guys from bottoming out and allowed you to turn it around?
TOMAS VOKOUN: Well, I think there's a lot of credit that has to be going to Craig Anderson because when we started with this streak, he basically won a couple games by himself. Both games we won 1?0. He played both games unbelievable. I think he stopped like 93 out of 94 shots or whatever, something like that. And I think playing good or not, we won those games, and it kind of jump started the whole team.
Then we started progressively playing better and winning when we should because we played well. In some of those previous games we won, I'm not sure we played that well.
But I think hockey is a team sport, and I think it just proves you need everybody. You need 22 guys throughout the year. There are other players in the dressing room that scored big goals that are not used to that role. Like I said, Craig, when he won those two games, it kind of turned the team a little bit around.
QUESTION: Just wondering how you feel personally. You're playing a lot of games. I know Craig is giving you a little bit of a spell, but you've had a little bit of an injury history in the past. How do you feel coming down the stretch because you're probably going to be in the net almost every game going forward here?
TOMAS VOKOUN: Actually it was a great situation because it's a lot easier to talk about this when you're winning and everybody feels good definitely. When we lose those few close games, obviously it's tough, and I was getting really mentally tired and my game wasn't where I wanted it to be.
Craig went in and played great, and he started three games and gave me more than a week, not just to relax from the standpoint of not playing any games, but with the goalie coach, work on my game. It was a good break.
Right now I just enjoy playing, and I try to think about one game at a time, and we'll see how that goes. I don't make decisions, so if coach tells me I'm playing the next game, I prepare and try to do the best I can. That's how I approach it, you know, all the way to the end hopefully.
QUESTION: The last two callers kind of hit the areas I wanted to hit, but I guess I'll expand on the last question. How much heading into these critical games, how much pressure do you feel from the standpoint of the franchise hasn't made the playoffs in a few years and you were pretty much specifically acquired to address the goaltending situation that had been uncertain for a year or so? How do you sort of deal with that, or do you try and block it out? Managing those expectations I guess is the question.
TOMAS VOKOUN: I'm trying to play hockey obviously. I understand what's at stake, and if we don't make the playoffs it's definitely, even from my point of view, going to feel like a failure.
You don't think of that kind of things during the process of the season. I'm focusing on the next game, and that's Carolina. We have some big games coming up, and obviously I want to get into the playoffs, and I think everybody here wants to do that. This franchise needs it. I mean, I'll do the best I can to help that, and that's how I look at it.
We worked hard to get into position now to have a chance, and I think it would be really bad if we wasted it. So I believe we ?? we can't really control it because we are obviously chasing teams, so we just have to worry about winning our games and see where it's going to leave us. When you get in this situation, that's basically all you can do.
QUESTION: I know you mentioned during that time off when Craig was starting that you were getting really mentally tired. What do you feel that those three starts did for you? Do you think you would have been able to play the way you have since you've come back in if you hadn't gotten that break? And who, if anyone, did you kind of talk to during that time to help you out, to help you get through it mentally?
TOMAS VOKOUN: You know, it's a hypothetical question and you never know that. It's obvious it helped me play. I don't know if it's just mental or it was technical, too, just working with Pierre on technical stuff with my game. You know, that's why it's ?? you go through the year, if you play that many games, you go through stretches when you're doing well and you go through stretches where you're not doing so good. This was exactly what we needed, and Craig came in and basically won those games by himself, and it helped me in the process, too.
You know, the pressure got a little bit lifted off me, all those things. And like I said, I believe hockey is a team sport and you need two goaltenders. There's teams ?? you look around the league, you always need two good goaltenders because you have injury issues, stuff like that. If you don't have a good backup then you're really setting up for disaster if your No. 1 goalie gets hurt or he doesn't play well, because that's going to happen to everybody. It's not that uncommon.
People go through bad stretches during the year, and like I said, just giving myself a break and obviously just not have to deal with playing for a week, it was helpful.
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you, are people getting excited there in southern Florida? Over the years there hasn't been a lot of strong support there, but it looked like Friday night and yesterday that there were some fans in the stands.
TOMAS VOKOUN: Yeah, I mean, it was ?? it obviously is not as you would like, but looking at the performance of this team, you kind of have to understand. I think especially in U.S. markets it's more obvious if the team is not winning. You look at around the league, there's teams like Buffalo who not too long ago was struggling and they didn't have lots of fans and they're sold out now.
Here everybody loves a winning team, and I think it's no different in Florida. So I'm sure if our performance is solid, then we'll have a lot more people to come to the games, and hopefully deservedly so.
QUESTION: You've been in this rush for the playoff spot before when you were in Nashville. Is there anything you can say to the guys because not a lot of your teammates have been in this playoff position? What do you say to keep them focused, keep them on the right page?
TOMAS VOKOUN: Yeah, you know, I think that's what you play for, and I think you have to always remember that you play 82 games in the regular season to get in the playoffs because that's where the most fun and obviously that's ?? that's the reason. You play to have a chance to win a Cup, and that's only if you get into the playoffs. I think you have to remember that every time you step on the ice and just kind of remind yourself you have to do everything you can. Sometimes it comes down to just wanting it a little bit more than the other player or the other team and doing that little extra because there's not really a big difference in between how we played three weeks ago and how we play now. The difference is so small. But even though it's small, it means the difference in between winning and losing.
You look at the teams in this league, if you're a last?place team, teams are losing 6?1 or getting blown out. Every game is lost or won by one goal. So the league is really, really tight, and you do have that do that little extra to win on a consistent basis.