It is only fitting on Military Heroes night at Jobing.com that the Phoenix Coyotes salute the military as team sniper Radim Vrbata gets the game winner in OT. On a great steal and pass from Ray Whitney. Every sniper needs a trusted spotter, and no one runs the scope better than Ray Whitney. Get open and he sees you. Hits you with the pass on the tape of your stick. Vrbata has gotten open this year. 28 goals for a new career high matched with 21 assists. 10 game winners to lead the NHL. 4 of the last 5 game winners have come off the stick of Vrbata. Shootout master. The forehand to backhand move has work 4 out of 8 times. 5 Power Play goals, one short handed tally. His goal celebration is like his personality. Dual arm pump, slight smile, then starting looking for the teammates to thank for the assist. Not a skate down the ice and do the arm swirl on one knee. Not throwing your glove in the air and shooting it out of the sky. Understated and elegant.
He has played in all 59 games. And lately, he has added some physical presence to his game. He has always been around the net. Now his not afraid to mix it up, hand out a face wash or two when a scrum breaks out in front of the net. And his defensive side, which goes unnoticed when you pump 28 goals in the net, needs to be praised. His backchecking has improved over the past few years. As Tyson Nash says, “Forecheck, backcheck, paycheck.” Except Vrbata signed for less than what he could have pulled on the open market. He left once, then came back. Said he felt better here in Phoenix. His family liked it better. His head was clear. It is a better fit for him. As John Rambo said in Rambo, “This is what we do.”
It was Alice Cooper night as he had the puck drop and a bobblehead handed out tonight for the first 10,00 fans. But the Ganem Jewelers first star of the night was Radim Vrbata. Verby!