PittsburghPenguins.com takes a look at some of the key storylines to keep an eye on during training camp and the upcoming 2012-13 season.
Heading into a shortened season, the Penguins are fortunate to have one of the NHL’s best goalie tandems in Marc-Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun. The two netminders will likely share the workload and keep each other fresh during the hectic, compressed schedule.
“We have a lot of games in a short period of time, so I’m sure we’ll be working good (together) sharing a bit of ice time,” Fleury said. “We’ll see how it goes along the way.”
The two goalies spoke over the phone a few times during the summer after Pittsburgh signed Vokoun, 36, to a two-year, $4-million contract in June, and are looking forward to helping each other out.
Fleury, 27, had built an excellent rapport with Brent Johnson over the last few seasons, becoming close friends with his former goalie partner. He plans to do the same with the 13-year NHL veteran Vokoun, someone he admires and respects.
“(Vokoun) is a guy I’ve been watching since I was younger,” Fleury said. “I always liked the way he plays and stuff, so it will be nice to get to meet him and play with him.
“I think it’s great to have a guy like that who’s had a lot of experience and has been around for a long time. If we can talk about plays on the ice and goalie stuff, I think it’s always a good balance to help each other out.”
Becoming a successful NHL goalie requires an elite combination of talent and mental toughness, and Vokoun knows that Fleury is a special player to have made it in this league. But with that being said, Vokoun has been around a long time.
He’s been a starting goalie for many of the 13 years he’s played in the NHL, topping 25 victories for nine straight seasons and topping 30 victories three times. His 287 career victories rank sixth among active netminders.
After the 2004-05 NHL lockout, Vokoun’s career really took off. Since 2005-06, Vokoun appeared in 401 games, eighth-highest total in that span, and posted 36 shutouts – an average of 5.1 per season. In the last four years, he’s posted a .923 save percentage and has twice been named an NHL All-Star (2004, ’08).
Vokoun has experienced a lot during his time in this league, and hopes to help Fleury with anything that he might need – and learn from his new goalie partner at the same time.
“I’m going to try to help him with what I think can help him (with) and I’m going to be watching him,” Vokoun said. “He’s got a lot of good attributes that I can’t have any more because of my age and I don’t think I’m ever going to be as flexible as he is. I’ve got to play a little differently but I have a lot of experience and I can probably help him with that because no matter who you are, you go through ups and downs and you’re not always feeling great. It helps to have somebody who knows what you’re going through and can help you and understand.
“Unless you’ve ever stood in the net, you have no idea and you just can’t know those feelings. I think that’s what makes us really close as goalies because we know. You know how hard it is and what the other person is going through.”
Right now, it’s still uncertain how playing time will be split up between the two goalies.
“That’s a question for the coaches,” Vokoun said. “For 10 years I played as a No. 1 goalie so for me, I’ll play when they tell me to play and that doesn’t change if you’re a backup. Coaches make the decisions. That’s their job. They’re going to put on the ice who they feel should be out there. For me, whatever number of chances that I’m going to get to play, that’s probably up to me and how I play and how confident they feel putting me in there.”
At the end of the day, these two goalies have a shared objective: winning hockey games and winning the Stanley Cup. And they’re going to do whatever it takes to get there.
“We’re teammates, we’re here to help each other and that’s basically the bottom line,” Vokoun said. “You work hard and play the best you can when you play, but we all have a common goal and that is to play winning hockey. So I’m here to support him and I’m sure he’s going to support me.”