Flyers beat reporter Dave Isaac broke the news: Steve Mason is out, and Michal Neuvirth is in.
Looking like #Flyers Game 4 starter is Michal Neuvirth.
— Dave Isaac (@davegisaac) April 20, 2016
So it’ll be Holtby vs Neuvirth tonight. Prepare yourselves.
Neuvirth first goalie off
— Adam Kimelman (@NHLAdamK) April 20, 2016
Game Four, an elimination game for the Flyers, will see Neuvirth’s first return to playoff hockey since 2011, when Neuvirth saved 98 of 113 shots in four games during the Capitals’ sweep at the hands of the Lightning. Neuvirth’s save percentage was .867 that series, which was also the last of Bruce Boudreau’s tenure in Washington.
Braden Holtby has .939 career playoff save percentage.
In 2012, when he and Holtby were still teammates competing for the number-one spot, Neuvirth said Holtby was his “weakest competition yet” in a Czech-language interview. Neuvith denied the quote and accused RMNB of dishonestly translating the original article. RMNB verified the translation.
Neuvirth had a strong 2012 season, but the remainder of his time in Washington was troubled. Neuvirth missed games to injury, including once hurting himself while stepping on a puck coming out for warm-ups.
By December 2013, Neuvirth was one-third of a three-man goalie corps under coach Adam Oates. Via his agent, Neuvirth requested a trade out of Washington. George McPhee obliged a few months later, acquiring Jaroslav Halak from the Sabres in exchange.
Now with the Flyers, Neuvirth had been great in 2015-16 (.924 save percenage) until he injured himself in late March. Neuvirth returned for the final game of the regular season, but by then Steve Mason had secured the number-one spot.
That is — until the Capitals scored 12 goals on Mason in three games.
It’s not necessarily all that shocking. Steve Mason has not played particularly well in these last two games for the Flyers, and while he’s certainly not the chief problem on the team in this series, he hasn’t been a difference maker either. There’s been some speculation that he’s been injured, perhaps suffering a setback in Game 2 down in D.C. There’s no confirmation of that, although it’d be a fair explanation for some of the weak goals he’s given up in the series.
The Capitals have never swept an opponent in a best-of-seven playoff series. Tonight, against their former goaltender, they’ll finally get that chance.
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