The Washington Times - April 13, 2011, 12:55PM

Bruce Boudreau finally confirmed Wednesday what he said was up in the air as recently as Tuesday – that Michal Neuvirth is his Game 1 playoff starter against the Rangers. But more than that, the Capitals’ coach explained (eventually) why he went with Neuvirth over Semyon Varlamov.

“Why not?” Boudreau said, before being pressed. “We thought that he was the guy that’s played the most games down the stretch, he’s played the big games down the stretch, and he’s won the big games that we needed to win.”

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Neuvirth went 27-12-4 for the Caps in the regular season and sounded confident earlier in the week about being the Game 1 starter and delivering in the playoffs. His success at the minor league level can’t hurt, as Neuvirth won two Calder Cups in the past two seasons with the Hershey Beats.

“His demeanor when it’s crunch time was outstanding,” Boudreau said. “Championships are not only very difficult to win at any level, but it takes something special to win.”

Neuvirth’s playoff success seems to show he has that something special. Now, it’s a matter of him showing it in the NHL. And while Boudreau doesn’t talk to his goalies this time of year – if he did, the message would be simple:

“Play up to your capabilities. That’s all we ask of him, and we know we’re gonna get it. He’s a great goaltender. He’s underrated, he’s unknown, but he’s a great goaltender.”

The decision has likely been made for a while, as Neuvirth played seven of the final 11 games of the regular season. But Boudreau didn’t knock Neuvirth, either.

“Not taking anything away from Varly. Varly’s a great goalie,” he said. “We think Michal right now is probably more in a groove than Varly is.”

So Neuvirth it is.