WILMINGTON — In 2009-10, opponents put 2,081 shots on Tomas Vokoun. The Florida netminder faced 33.6 shots per start, the highest amount of rubber faced among the top-25 busiest goalies.
Three current Bruins were guilty of allowing Vokoun to be treated like a Shooter Tutor: Gregory Campbell, Nathan Horton, and Dennis Seidenberg.
“He did,” Campbell said with a smile when asked if Vokoun saw a lot of shots. “Maybe a lot like [Roberto] Luongo, I could remember, when he first got to Florida. There were 45-50 shots on average per night. So he’s used to facing a lot of shots. He’s been good for them this year.”
That season, Vokoun thrived under the heat. In 62 starts, Vokoun posted a 23-28-11 record with a 2.55 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. Among goalies with 40 or more starts, Vokoun trailed only Ryan Miller (.929) in save percentage.
Three years later, Vokoun is submitting ace numbers once more. Vokoun isn’t the workhorse he once was. Vokoun served as Marc-Andre Fleury’s backup during the regular season and at the start of the playoffs. Once Fleury crumbled against the Islanders in the opening round, Vokoun has been a far steadier steward of Pittsburgh’s crease. Vokoun is 6-1 with a 1.85 GAA and a .941 save percentage — the latter two statistics trumping those of Tuukka Rask (2.22, .928).
Vokoun’s reliability does not surprise his former Florida teammates.
“He stopped a lot of shots,” Seidenberg said. “When you play in Florida, you usually get a lot of shots. It gets a goalie into the game. You play better sometimes. He’s a veteran goalie who knows how to angle the puck. He’ll put the shooter in the worst position possible.”
Vokoun’s No. 1 pedigree from Florida and Nashville underscores that the Bruins won’t be facing a backup scrub. Vokoun doesn’t have Fleury’s athleticism. But Vokoun is efficient at being square to shooters and competing for loose pucks.
“He’s a competitor. He’s a lot like Tim Thomas,” Campbell said. “He likes to challenge. He competes on rebounds. There’s nothing flashy to his game. Any time you have a goalie who has as many wins as he does in this league, he’s obviously doing something right. We’ve faced two extremely good goalies already. This is just another test for us. We’re going to have to make it hard on him.”
Andrew Ference practiced on the fifth pairing alongside Aaron Johnson on Friday. The ex-Penguin had yet to be cleared for game action by team doctors.
Ference, who hasn’t played since Game 5 against Toronto, will most likely not be in uniform on Saturday. If Pittsburgh’s offense ramps up quickly, Ference could draw in for Matt Bartkowski.
“With Ference, if they’ve given me the OK with him, then I need to consider that,” coach Claude Julien said. “Sometimes you can only make those decisions the night before or game day.”
Ference is one of three spare defensemen the Bruins could tab if injuries take place. Dougie Hamilton is healthy. Wade Redden, who didn’t play against the Rangers because of an undisclosed injury, should be available this series.
Last year against Washington, Joe Corvo was the lone spare defenseman with NHL experience.
“We have more options this year. No doubt about that,” Julien said. “Redds had a good start of the playoffs when he was healthy. Afterward, those young kids came in and did a great job. They gave us more depth than we even anticipated having.”
Time well spent
Game 1 takes place a week after the Bruins concluded the second round against the Rangers. The Bruins were given two straight days off following the Game 5 ouster of the Rangers. They had four straight practices at Ristuccia Arena in preparation for Saturday’s game. “I thought those two days we gave the guys off paid off, just by watching the practices this week,” Julien said. “I thought we had some really good practices. We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish. Definitely no excuses about not being prepared. If anything, we’re excited to get going here. It’s been a good week, but it’s been long enough. We need to get going here.” . . . David Krejci returned to practice on Friday. Krejci was the only player that didn’t practice on Thursday. Krejci, Milan Lucic, and Nathan Horton will most likely be matched against Pittsburgh’s No. 2 line of Jarome Iginla, Evgeni Malkin, and James Neal.