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Neuvirth set to start Game 1 for Caps

Washington Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth (30) watches as Florida Panthers right wing Bill Thomas puck scores a goal in the third period of an NHL hockey game in Sunrise, Fla., Saturday, April 9, 2011. The Panthers won 1-0. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)Washington Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth (30) watches as Florida Panthers right wing Bill Thomas puck scores a goal in the third period of an NHL hockey game in Sunrise, Fla., Saturday, April 9, 2011. The Panthers won 1-0. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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There won't be a coronation. Bruce Boudreau won't make the announcement with flashbulbs popping. But one thing is clear: Michal Neuvirth is the Capitals No. 1 goalie going into the playoffs.

"I wanted the job all season long. I had some ups and downs, but I play [48] games this year, so that's a big year," Neuvirth said Tuesday after practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington. "I had a lot of big games for us, and it means a lot to me to be the No. 1 goalie for the first game of the playoffs."

Neuvirth's numbers are actually the worst of Washington's three netminders, but he did shoulder the biggest load and has been seen as "the guy" for at least the past few weeks. So Boudreau hasn't had the need to talk to him and reassure him of anything.

"I don't have to say anything to him; as a matter of fact, I try not to say anything to him for fear that it'll get him wound up or nervous or whatever," the Caps' coach said. "He does what he does; he's played really big in big games for us, and we got a lot of belief in him."

Neuvirth has brought up his playoff success at lower levels recently. He won the Ontario Hockey League title with the Plymouth Whalers in 2006-07 and two Calder Cups with the American Hockey League's Hershey Bears.

Whether that success translates to the NHL playoffs remains to be seen, but Neuvirth believes it will.

"It was a great experience for me. I played two Calder Cup Finals — that was a lot of pressure. The buildings were packed. I don't think it's gonna be that much different than those playoffs," he said. "Obviously, it's the NHL, but down in Hershey there was a lot of pressure on us because everybody expected us to win. Same here — everybody expects us to win."

And at least for now, they expect Neuvirth to do that winning.

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