The Washington Capitals are mired in losing, something that has led to players discussing lack of confidence. The same goes for Michal Neuvirth.
Neuvirth is 2-4-1 with a less-than-impressive 3.82 goals-against average and .868 save percentage. But the 23-year-old isn’t too down on his game as he tries to find success again.
“Obviously I’ve wanted to perform better than I did. I don’t think it was that bad,” he said. “I know my numbers are not great. I didn’t win a lot of hockey games this year. When you’re winning, your stats are getting better as well. It’s all about the winning and we just got to get back on the horse and start winning some hockey games.”
Neuvirth will start Saturday night against the Ottawa Senators after Dale Hunter gave Tomas Vokoun the nod in his first two games as coach.
Neuvirth said he didn’t know what the rotation would be like under this coach, but the approach is the same when it comes to confidence and getting back on track.
“I’m looking forward to a get a shot and play good,” he said. “It’s always tough when you’re losing and it’s not fun. Obviously you want to change as soon as possible. Especially when you win, you’re in a good mood. And when you’re in a good mood, you play well, too.”
Hunter called Neuvirth “really good,” citing relief appearances as something that skewed his numbers.
“It kind of hurts his stats a little bit, but he’s been good for this team here,” said Hunter, who remembered Neuvirth from his time in the OHL. “He’s a very good goalie and competes hard and he’s sound with rebounds. He doesn’t give many up.”
Neuvirth, who missed three weeks of game action with a bruised right heel, hasn’t been able to backstop a win since Nov. 4. That’s when he shut down a struggling Carolina Hurricanes team in Raleigh.
But goaltending coach Dave Prior said the same thing as Hunter – that Neuvirth’s overall numbers are tainted by a couple bad games.
“He hasn’t played a lot of minutes and missed a few weeks there with the injury,” Prior said. “In his games he’s started, his numbers are respectable. That’s how I feel he’s performed quite well. In the games he’s won, he’s been part of the reason we’ve won. But there is a few goals that he could have prevented in games, which would’ve made his numbers a little better.”
Neuvirth has said a couple times he doesn’t care about his particular numbers but does about winning. Saturday night will be his first start in over a week.
Regaining confidence and rhythm without playing a lot has become Neuvirth’s biggest challenge.
“It’s tough. It’s a new role for me. It’s another experience,” he said. “I never was a backup or anything like that. I’m practicing hard, and I’m feeling good about myself right now. I just need to show it in a game.”