Wednesday night’s game between the Capitals and the Flyers is significant for two reasons: first, it’s the only Caps game to be played in a thirteen-day period; second, it’s the first time Michal Neuvirth will face the Washington Capitals in a regular season game. Better yet, this is the first time Neuvy will face his weakest competition yet in the opposing net.
We cannot wait.
Drafted in the second round of the 2006 draft, Czech-born Michal Neuvirth was the second in a long line of good goalies selected by the Caps under George McPhee and goaltender coach Dave Prior. Neuvirth helped the Hershey Bears to back-to-back Calder Cups in 2009 and 2010, but in 134 games for the Caps, Neuvirth did not pan out. Neuvy offered a disappointing .910 save percentage while struggling with injury and splitting time with Semyon Varlamov and Braden Holtby. Washington’s second-round sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2011 was mostly the fault of Neuvirth’ sub-.870 save percentage.
One year later, Neuvirth told a Czech website that he had a mortal lock on the Caps’ number-one goalie spot. Our translation of that interview:
“I’m starting the season sure that I want to play forty/fifty games and I am really sure that I have the weakest competition (Braden Holtby) I’ve ever had. I will try to be number one goalie this season. Finally!”
Neuvirth played poorly in the remainder of his time in Washington. During Adam Oates’ shitty tenure, Neuvirth requested a trade. In early 2014, he got it. George McPhee traded Neuvirth to acquire Jaroslav Halak for another ill-fated Caps playoff run.
Alex Ovechkin, Michal Neuvirth, Martin Erat eat dinner. 2013-2014 was not fun.
Since leaving DC, Neuvirth has done okay, helping the Buffalo Sabres keep some dignity, struggling in Long Island, and then stealing the starting spot from Steve Mason in Philadelphia, where Neuvy has put up a .934 save percentage this season.
But since the trade, Braden Holtby has faced twice as many shots as Neuvirth and done distinctly better with them (.928 vs .923 in all situations, .932 to .930 in adjusted 5v5 save percentage, thanks WOI). The guy Neuvirth called his “weakest competition yet” turned out to be not only the Caps franchise goalie, but also the league’s best goalie, the current leading Vezina contender and a dark horse for the Hart. Plus Holtby grows way better facial hair.
Good luck tonight, Mikey.
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