Michal Neuvirth admits this is an adjustment for him, being a backup goaltender for the first time. Washington Capitals goaltending coach Dave Prior understands it’s an ongoing process.
“I think he’s learning to deal with it. The thing with goaltenders is when you play regularly, you get a lot of feedback as to where your game is,” Prior said in a telephone interview Thursday. “You got in there and you played poorly or you gave up bad goals, you know where your game’s at.”
Neuvirth started five in a row in December and Friday night will be his fourth consecutive start. Stretches like this are good for Neuvirth, but the in-between is a work in progress.
Prior said Neuvirth hadn’t had to hone the skill of making sure his practices are exact so he can prepare for games.
“That’s been more of a challenge is he’s had to work at becoming more technically correct in his practice methods. I’m not saying as a No. 1 you don’t strive for that. But you do get feedback in your very next game when you’re playing more often that this isn’t right. You know what’s sort of broken in your game and then you adjust it the next practice.
“When those games are few and far between, you’re not as certain until you get into that next game where you are. I think for a young goalie that’s always a challenge to evolve your practice skills to a point where you’re on and you get to play. I think that’s where he’s probably improved and [it has] allowed him to be good when he’s come into the games.”
Tomas Vokoun seems to be the go-to guy as the No. 1 option, though even he has had his share of stretches glued to the bench.
“I think its a challenge for both of these individuals only because they’re both used to having the lion’s share of the games. And Tomas in particular,” Prior said. “But Tomas is still more knowledgable of his own game than Michal. Tomas’ game is a little more complex than Michal’s. It requires more maintenance, too, to stay on his game.”