By Amanda DiPaolo
After eight years with the Predators, Tomas Vokoun holds all the records for goaltending in Nashville. Vokoun is the leader for single-season record for wins (36), wins (161), losses (159), goaltender appearances (383), shutouts (21), and record for saves (9,657). Vokoun remains a fan favorite in Nashville. His name is cheered when announced he will start in goal for the visiting team, an announcement usually met with jeers throughout the crowd at Bridgestone Arena.
The Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic native returned to Nashville over the weekend when the Florida Panthers put their three-game winning streak on the line against the Predators. Vokoun was coming off a 3-0 shutout of the Capitals, a team that has lost three in a row and is 4-5-1 in its last 10 games. A shutout against a team with Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin and Nikolas Backstrom up front with Mike Green on the blue line is no easy feat and is a good momentum builder. “Yeah I felt pretty good beating Washington. They are a good team. On the road it was a great game for us,” Vokoun said.
However, Vokoun couldn’t stop Nashville’s defense who led the Predators offense, scoring two goals in the first period. Despite playing each other at least once a year, and for the past three campaigns twice a season, Saturday night’s game was the first time Vokoun played against his former team since the 2007-2008 season.
The Predators won the game 3-0 with Anders Lindback earning his first NHL career shutout, but Vokoun said he enjoyed coming back to the city where he spent a large part of his NHL career. “It’s nice. I went to see some friends yesterday. It’s always nice to come back. I saw some guys, Marty Erat and David Legwand,” Vokoun said.
The former Predators netminder also said it was once strange to come back to Nashville, being a visitor instead of a resident and playing against friends, but it is something that eventually you get used to. “It is a little strange at first but now it has been 3.5 years. This is the kind of business that it’s normal. You play against your teammates all the time.”
Having been selected in 1998 by the Predators in the expansion draft, acquired from the Montreal Canadiens, Vokoun started out as the back-up netminder to Mike Dunham. In 2002, Dunham was traded to the New York Rangers and Vokoun gained the job of starting goaltender, a job he maintained until being traded at the 2007 entry draft for Florida’s first round pick in the 2008 draft (the Predators would trade that 9th overall pick along with the 40th overall pick to the Islanders for their 2008 7th overall pick allowing Nashville to select Colin Wilson). While Vokoun played for over two years with the Montreal Canadiens farm team in Fredericton New Brunswick in the mid 1990s, he did play a total of 16 games in Milwaukee.
Vokoun has now been a part of three organizations and he learns and develops his game continuously. “I think everything has to do with your development. I learned a little bit of different stuff everywhere I went. It’s up to you if you learn or if you don’t learn. Everywhere I went gave me a little bit of perspective on how goalies play. There are different beliefs on how goalies should play. I think the best thing is to do a little bit of everything. That’s pretty much what I am. I’m a hybrid goalie. Not totally butterfly but can play a little bit of stand up too.”
Vokoun also gave credit to the Predators organization’s ability to develop players, including goaltenders. “I think they do a great job. They have a good scouting staff. They work with people well. This is not a franchise who can buy players. They have to develop their own. There are a lot of players around the league who came from Nashville playing high roles around the league.”
The Panthers don’t play again until Wednesday when they take on their Southeast division rival Carolina Hurricanes. The Nashville Predators take to the ice tonight when the New York Islanders visit Bridgestone Arena.
Are you looking for tickets to an upcoming Predators home game? Follow this link for discounted tickets. Make an account and then use the word Preds as the code for the discount. Upcoming games include tonight’s game against the Islanders, Wednesday when the San Jose Sharks make their first visit to Smashville this year and Saturday when the Kings come to town.