Good morning and thanks for stopping by Litter Box Cats for another round of the all-time Panther countdown. For some background on the construction of this list, click here.
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5. Tomas Vokoun
Vokoun, a 6'1" goaltender from Karlovy Vary, Czechoslovakia, allowed 11 goals in five games with the Czech Republic Junior National Team. He was soon after selected in the ninth round of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft with the 226th overall pick by the Montreal Canadiens.
After spending 1994-95 with HC Kladno, Vokoun made the jump to North America. He posted a 20-10-2 record in his first season, with the ECHL's Wheeling Thunderbirds, in 1995-96. The next season would see him advance to the Canadiens AHL Affiliate in Fredericton (also the Canadiens), going 12-26-7. He appeared in one NHL game with the Canadiens that season, allowing four goals on 14 shots in one period. He took the loss in the eventual 9-5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on February 6th, 1997.
It would be awhile before T-Vo made another NHL appearance. He stayed on Fredericton's roster through the entire 1997-98 season, posting a 13-13-2 record. After the season, Vokoun was left unprotected in the 1998 Expansion Draft, where he was picked up by the brand-new Nashville Predators.
Vokoun ultimately spent eight total seasons with Nashville, and is the Predators all-time leader in most goaltending categories. He posted an overall 161-159-46 record with 21 shutouts (second only to Pekka Rinne's 25). If I were to calculate a list for Nashville with the same standards set forth in the Panther's countdown, Vokoun would come in on top (a few point shares ahead of forward David Legwand). After the 2006-07 season, Nashville traded him to the Panthers for a first (Joshua Bailey) and two second (Aaron Ness, Nick Spaling) round picks.
2007-08 would see Vokoun start the season as the Panthers new number one goalie after the retirement of Hall-of-Famer Ed Belfour. After losing his first two games, he shut out the New Jersey Devils on 29 shots by a score of 3-0. Later, in a three game span from December 7th through the 13th, he allowed only one goal on 95 shots, going 2-0-1 while shutting out the New York Islanders, 3-0 and the St. Louis Blues, 1-0. In total, he had four shutouts that season with a 30-29-8 record. He stopped 91.9% of shots faced while allowing 2.68 goals per 60 minutes on ice. He was also credited with a career high six assists on the season. He ranked first in the NHL with 2,213 shots faced and with 2,033 saves, making his second career all-star team.
In 2008-09, Vokoun ranked second in the league with a stellar .926 save percentage. On December 21st, he shut out the Colorado Avalanche, 3-0 on 23 shots. In his next game, he stopped all 27 opposing shots in his second consecutive shutout victory, a 3-0 decision over the Predators. Later, from February 12th through the 21st, he allowed seven goals over a six game stretch with three shutouts. In all, he pitched six shutouts on his way to a 26-23-6 record and a 2.49 goals against average.
Vokoun again posted stats ranking amongst the season ending NHL leaderboard in 2009-10, finishing third with seven shutouts and with a .925 save percentage. He went 23-28-11, with a GAA of 2.55. From October 31st through November 14th, he orchestrated three shutouts in a four game span (4-0 over the Blues, 3-0 over the Carolina Hurricanes, and 1-0 against the Boston Bruins). In mid-January, he had a seven game span where he allowed seven goals (including four in one of them) for a 4-2-1 record with three more shutouts.
2010-11 would see Vokoun continue to mind the Panthers net as the unchallenged number one goalie. He posted consecutive shutout victories early in the season against the Calgary Flames, 3-0 on October 14th, and the Tampa Bay Lighning, 6-0 on October 16th. He went 22-28-5 with six shutouts, a 2.55 GAA and a .922 save percentage.
Florida's Tallon-led "changing of the guard" did not include any serious competition for Vokoun's talents. After not finding any good offers, he ended up with the Washington Capitals at the one time only clearance price of one-year, $1,500,000. He went 25-17-2 for the contenders, but finished the season injured and looking up at the new division champion Panthers in the standings.
Vokoun was often the only bright spot for the Panthers, especially during his last two seasons, when the team was barely competitive. He stole more than a few games with nicely timed performances, but his good streaks were at times few and far between. This past offseason, he signed a two-year, $4,000,000 contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
All-Time Statline: Four seasons, 248 games (third all-time), 14,274 minutes, 101-108-30 record, 23 shutouts (second all-time), 7,902 shots faced, 7,290 saves, 612 goals allowed, .923 save percentage, 2.57 GAA, 39.0 APS.
That's 285 down and four to go. If you've been paying attention, you probably know who's next. If you haven't been paying attention, but you're good at math, you can probably calculate the rest. If you've been paying attention and you're good at math, but just don't have the time for it, make sure to keep on following along. Make sure to check back here tomorrow for another goaltender, our second Panther in the top 20 from the little town of Detroit.