TORONTO – If it looks like a playoff goalie and talks like a playoff goalie and more importantly plays like a playoff goalie then it’s probably Michal Neuvirth. Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau hasn’t made that announcement but admitted early Tuesday that “We’ve got an idea what we’re gonna do” with the goaltending situation.
Neuvirth, who picked up his fifth straight victory Tuesday night by beating the Maple Leafs in a shootout, appears poised to at least be Washington’s Game 1 starter when the playoffs begin. Against Toronto he didn’t see a lot of shots but came up big late in the game with the Leafs buzzing.
“That’s why I’m goalie; I gotta handle the pressure and I gotta handle the focus,” Neuvirth said. “You gotta be into it the whole game, and that’s what I was trying to do tonight and it worked out.”
Boudreau has voluntarily come to Neuvirth’s defense over the past week or so and has given the 23-year-old every chance to prove why he’s set to be the playoff starter. All Neuvirth has done over the past five starts is stop 135 of 148 shots he has faced.
He was up to the task again Tuesday – despite a couple goals.
“The first goal was deflected again; I was starting to feel bad for him. And then the other goal – he couldn’t do anything about, [Jeff Schultz] should’ve had the guy,” Boudreau said. “But when [Joey] Crabb had that shot in the third period and they had some really good opportunities, he stood his ground and he did a great job of controlling rebounds.”
It’s possible Semyon Varlamov starts the second half of this back-to-back, Wednesday night vs. Florida at Verizon Center. But Neuvirth sounds like a man who doesn’t want to let go of the net – though he realizes he might have to be patient.
“But I felt better today,” he said. “I don’t need the rest. I want to play and I can wait till playoffs.”