Barring injury, there was nothing Michal Neuvirth could do this preseason to change his role with the Capitals. Tomas Vokoun is the starter
“You got guys that come in that deserve the respect …,” coach Bruce Boudreau said, “and Tomas has earned that.”
When the Caps open the regular season Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes at Verizon Center, it’s a good bet that Vokoun will be in net. And that’s something Neuvirth has made peace with because he understands the situation.
“Bruce announces Tomas is the No. 1 – it doesn’t really bother me,” Neuvirth said. “I just going to wake up tomorrow and work hard and if I get the call, I’ll be ready.”
Neuvirth, though, did a heck of a job all preseason. He looked like a starting goaltender, especially in the exhibition finale Sunday evening against the Blackhawks. In three games, Neuvirth made 63 saves on 67 shots – a 1.34 goals-against average and .940 save percentage.
Vokoun, adjusting to a new team and new teammates, finished with 67 saves on 77 shots – a 3.26 goals against average and .870 save percentage.
At first glance, that difference in numbers appears stark. But Boudreau’s commentary about Neuvirth vs. Vokoun should end any speculation about who’s the man.
“Michal’s been very good. I wouldn’t have any problem, and Michal’s going to play a lot of hockey this year,” Boudreau said. “But I don’t think you look at that, and it’d be like saying, OK, Jason Chimera played Alex Ovechkin in the preseason – does that mean Jason Chimera is now the No. 1 left wing over Alex Ovechkin? I don’t think that’s a fair question.”
Well, the situations aren’t exactly comparable; the difference in talent between Vokoun and Neuvirth certainly doesn’t match up with the difference between Ovechkin and Chimera.
But having two starting-caliber goalies is OK with the Caps.
“He can be a No. 1. He’s proven it before,” Chimera said of Neuvirth. “He took us to the playoffs last year. … Thats what you need – you need a guy to push Voky like that and they’re both great goalies.”
Here’s a game-by-game look at the goaltenders:
Neuvirth vs. Predators: 13 saves on 15 shots (L)
Vokoun at Blackhawks: 23 saves on 26 shots (L)
Neuvirth vs. Blue Jackets: 22 saves on 23 shots (W)
Vokoun at Predators: 23 saves on 27 shots (L)
Vokoun vs. Sabres: 21 saves on 24 shots (W)
Neuvirth vs. Blackhawks: 28 saves on 29 shots (W)