Michal Neuvirth should be the Capitals’ number 1 goaltender right now and for the foreseeable future.
Not the 1a. That should be Braden Holtby.
I have always believed this, even when the Caps surprisingly signed Tomas Vokoun. Everyone knows Vokoun is fine in the regular season. In the Playoffs? He’s only played in 2 series in his entire career, losing both in 4 and 6 games. The notion that he somehow brings veteran leadership and experience for the Playoffs is absurd.
Michal Neuvirth, on the other hand? He does. He has already played in as many series as Vokoun has, and he is 23 years old to Vokoun’s 35. Neuvirth has not underperformed in the Playoffs by any means-in fact, he was one of the bright spots on the team during the Playoffs last year. He also won over the starting job from Semyon Varlamov, which ultimately led to Varly’s being shipped to Colorado.
Look, I understand when people say that Vokoun should be the number 1 because he is the veteran, he brings experience, etc. But I never understood why the Caps even signed him in the first place!! I understand it is for those very traits. But why do they need them? Neuvirth has proven himself to be just as good as Vokoun will be in the Playoffs. In his 2 career series, Neuvy has a 2.34 GAA as compared to Vokoun’s 2.47. Now, I understand that Vokoun has not played on good teams in his time in the League. But we’re looking at Playoff statistics, and a team doesn’t get to the Playoffs without being at least respectable. In fact, I would contend that Neuvy’s GAA, which admittedly is not that much better than Vokoun’s, is more impressive. The Capitals are known for being an extremely offensive team, one which plays close to no defense (the reason for their perennial Playoff collapse). The Predators, the team on which Vokoun went to the Playoffs twice–are known for their tight defense year after year. So, that being said, I would say that Neuvirth’s GAA is in fact better, to use the term loosely, than Vokoun’s in the Playoffs, which then calls into question the signing of Vokoun if their existing goalie is better than him at the very thing he was signed for.
Now, I am aware every team needs 2 goalies, and many say, “Well, Vokoun as a backup is not bad.” Again, I say that there was no reason to sign him in the first place. Vokoun was signed for his veteran savvy, leadership, and “Playoff experience”, right? What good are any of those doing if he is the backup? All of those things are contingent on his being the starter. And, with Neuvirth starting the first game of the year, he is not. What good are his experience and consistency on the ice doing riding the pine?
In addition, the Caps have yet another very talented, young goalie in their system–Braden Holtby. I believed Holtby should have been at least the 1a (to use Boudreau’s term) this year, if not the starter. In 14 games last year, Holtby had a 1.79 GAA and a .934 SV% against such formidable opponents as the Flyers, Lightning, and Blackhawks-and 2 games in Montreal, the toughest place to play in the League, where he shut the Habs out once and allowed 2 goals on 26 shots in the other. That is extremely good for a 21-year-old. I didn’t understand why Boudreau didn’t ride him after the other goalies came back last year, and it led to…Playoff elimination.
Now, the big knock against Holtby is that there is no Playoff experience-but he would be the backup here, so that wouldn’t be a huge issue if he turned out disastrous. But he wouldn’t. I think any 21-year-old that can go into Montreal in only slightly more than his tenth game in the League and shut them out, while dealing with the extremely pressure-filled and intense atmosphere that is Montreal, not only can handle enormous pressure, but deserves a really serious look on your team? Did he get that? No–Holtby is in Hershey right now.
So who is to blame here–what is the problem? George McPhee should never have signed Vokoun in the first place, and Boudreau should not have named him the starter only 10 days after signing him. Now, after Neuvirth totally outperformed Vokoun in camp, Boudreau was forced to start him over Vokoun, making him look like a total buffoon. Neuvirth has proven to be an NHL-quality goaltender, and one that is more than ready for the Playoffs who doesn’t need someone like Vokoun as a fallback. Also, the Caps still have Holtby, who absolutely blew people away in his starts last year and who many assumed would be the 2nd goalie on the Capitals. So what I am wondering is–why sign Vokoun in the first place, and why name him the starter and then start Vokoun?
The problem is that Neuvirth and Holtby were ready to be one of the NHL’s best goalie tandems. Then they signed Vokoun, named him the starter, he sucked, and now Neuvirth is starting again. And who manufactured the problem?
Bruce Boudreau. I think we have found the real problem here.