One has been answered. Craig Anderson will be in net again tomorrow night as the Panthers take on the Edmonton Oilers. Tomas Vokoun expected to start Friday against Calgary. This will be Andy's 7th straight start. His last start, which came Monday night in Ottawa, had its ups and downs, to say the least. He gave up 3, shaky goals in the first 2 periods, then played one of his best periods to send the game to OT, where the Cats eventually won. There's no doubt that some credit of the Panthers recent run of success belongs to Anderson. But the more he starts, and the more Vokoun sits on the bench, the more it feels like a train wreck is coming 'round the bend. Anderson hasn't been a #1 goalie since his 2000-2001 season with the Guelph Storm (59 starts). He's never started more the 21 games in an NHL season. Vokoun has appeared in 30 games 8 times, over 60 games 4 times, and started 69 games last season. Anderson might wear down, and the longer Vokoun sits (he hasn't started since November 26), the longer it could take him to get back into his All-Star shape. And by then, it could be too late.
Until now, both netminders have said the right things. As long as the team is winning, we're both happy. Whatever is best for the team, that's what I'll do. Yea... right. While I can't say I'd have a problem being paid $5 mil to sit on the bench and watch hockey for a living, I doubt Vokoun is pleased. He's his own biggest critic. When he doesn't perform well, he's the first to call himself out. Playing poorly is one thing. You know what you did wrong, what you can work on, how to get better. Not even getting a chance is another. For a guy who's been the #1 for so long, this new role can't sit well with him. And I can't say I'd blame him for getting frustrated.
Now what I can only imagine Coach DeBoer hopes to get out of this is that both 'tenders push each other to play as well as possible every chance they get. They know the guy on the bench is itching for a chance to earn more time. If DeBoer has been consistent about one thing in his early NHL career, it's that effort warrants more time. Results = playing time. Vokoun wasn't getting the results early in the year. Anderson is. I think a lot of that is the effort the team has put forward with Andy in net as opposed to the first month or so of the season for Tomas, but hey, that's the way it worked out. It's been a good 6 game stretch, no doubt. But counting on that to continue through February is unrealistic. Vokoun will have to reclaim his starting job for this team to continue to stay in the playoff picture all year. It starts Friday.