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SUPER SAVER

Oct. 31, 2011
Oct. 31, 2011

Table of Contents
Oct. 31, 2011

LEADING OFF
Inside: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
WORLD SERIES
PRO FOOTBALL
  • Each year San Diego has the look of a Super Bowl contender, only to face an East Coast team and get whacked. Until the Bolts prove it on the field, they'll fight their rep as talented but too soft

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
SOCCER
  • In the fifth and final year of his MLS contract, he's back at the top of his game at last. Now, as the 2011 playoffs begin, he and the Galaxy look to stamp his American experiment a success by winning a championship

JAMARCUS RUSSELL
  • The No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft should be out on the field commanding an NFL team this Sunday. JaMarcus Russell, though, is home in Mobile, absorbing shots to his character and resting on what's left of his $39 million. The most maligned figure in football tells his side

Departments

SUPER SAVER

By backstopping the Capitals to a perfect start, the unbeatable Tomas Vokoun has been the best pickup of the new season

Tomas Vokoun's career in Washington began 1--3, tolerable numbers for Albert Pujols but not if your profession is stopping pucks. "Here's a guy who's been in Florida four years," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau says. "He's probably nervous [in his debut, against the Lightning on Oct. 10], and after the first shot goes in, then the [third], he's probably scared to death. But we get to overtime and he stops two four-on-threes and we win. Then he tells the press, I played terrible—my teammates saved me. And in the [dressing] room, guys are thinking the opposite: He let in a few, but in the end he saved us."

This is an article from the Oct. 31, 2011 issue

He continues to save. Owning the net because of opening-day starter Michal Neuvirth's foot injury, Vokoun, who beat Detroit 7--1 last Saturday, boasts a .944 save percentage for the NHL's only unbeaten team. Washington (7-0-0) has used four goalies in 37 playoff games since 2008 without ever getting beyond the second round. While high-end goaltending has not been the largest impediment to a postseason breakthrough, Vokoun, working on a one-year, $1.5 million contract, at least should give the club a security blanket in net next spring.

Here are four other newly acquired players who have made a significant impact in 2011--12:

SIMON GAGNÉ, Kings LW

Gagné, who has three goals and seven points, is blessed to be flanking center Anze Kopitar, but theirs is a symbiotic relationship. Gagné, coach Terry Murray says, "is a world-class player with obvious offensive skill, but he's really intelligent off the puck." Murray, an assistant with the Flyers when Gagné was paired with Peter Forsberg six years ago, thinks the winger and Kopitar can conjure similar magic in Los Angeles (5-1-1). The question is Gagné's health. He missed 19 games with Tampa Bay last year, roughly his postlockout average.

SHELDON SOURAY, Stars D

The motivated Souray has made the switch from Hershey, Pa., in the AHL to Dallas. (The Oilers, who bought out his contract in June, buried him in the minors last year for salary-cap reasons.) While no one doubted the 35-year-old Souray's heavy shot, some league executives believed he'd lost the ability to play at an NHL pace. Apparently not. Souray has five points and is +6 for the surprising Stars (6-2-0). "We haven't had a power-play presence from the blue line, and that cannon of his already has led to a few goals," says Dallas general manager Joe Nieuwendyk.

BRAD RICHARDS, Rangers C

The prized free agent has five points in six games for New York (2-2-2). Not bad. Now look to his right. Winger Marian Gaborik, who had a disappointing 22 goals last season (after scoring 42 the year before), already has four goals, all on assists from Richards.

SEMYON VARLAMOV, Avalanche G

The bar was set low down the stretch last season by the slipshod work of the Peter Budaj--Brian Elliott tandem, and Varlamov (4-2-0, .929 save percentage), late of the Capitals, has vaulted over it with ease. He preserved a 1--0 win in Colorado's second game with a sensational sliding third-period save on the Bruins' Milan Lucic. The victory started a winning streak of five games.

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PHOTOBRUCE BENNETT/GETTY IMAGES (VOKOUN)THE FACE OF DENIAL Despite allowing goals on two of the first three shots he faced, Vokoun has won six straight games and has a .944 save percentage.