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Michal Neuvirth wants to challenge Tomas Vokoun for Caps #1 goalie job

Aug 25, 2011, 2:36 PM EDT

Michal Neuvirth Getty Images

When the Capitals signed Tomas Vokoun to a one-year free agent deal this summer it essentially cemented Vokoun in as the starting goalie for Washington and gave them the lights-out goaltender their team hasn’t had since Olaf Kolzig was in his prime. With Semyon Varlamov sent off to Colorado in a trade, it cleared the path for Vokoun to get a job in D.C.

Of course, Michal Neuvirth was, with all respect to Varlamov, the #1 guy in goal for the Capitals last season and now he’s getting bumped off by a guy in Vokoun that was his childhood hero growing up in the Czech Republic. For Neuvirth, it’s providing him the opportunity to show his idol what he’s got and, perhaps, steal a few more starts than you’d think.

While Caps coach Bruce Boudreau has said that Vokoun is most likely going to be his starting goalie, Neuvirth tells Tarik El-Bashir of The Washington Post that he’s not giving up the starting job without a fight.

“Tomas might be one of the top three goalies in the league,” Neuvirth said. “So it’s a big opportunity for me to show I can be as good as this guy or even better. Obviously, I want to play the most games and I still want to be the number one goalie.”

Reminded of Boudreau’s comments, Neuvirth fired back, “It’s still summer. We still have three weeks until training camp. Whatever Bruce is saying, it doesn’t bother me. We’ll see what happens in training camp. Obviously, Tomas is a great goalie and I respect him.”

Neuvirth wouldn’t be expected to say anything other than that, really. But the stern look on his face suggested that it wasn’t just lip service.

It’s great that Neuvirth is fired up to try and keep his job. It’s not as if Neuvirth had a bad season last year, he did great in going 27-12-4 with a 2.45 goals against average and a .914 save percentage with four shutouts. Comparing that to what Vokoun did last year with the Panthers where he was a workhorse going 22-28-5 with a 2.55 goals against and a .922 save percentage on a much worse Florida team, the choice seems academic.

Of course, their play on the ice will determine how things play out in the end. That said, Vokoun has been one of the league’s best for the past few seasons, he was just unfortunate enough to have a bad team in front of him to help him win more games. That’s an issue Vokoun won’t have in Washington. Having a more-than capable duo of goalies, however, is huge for Washington. While the Varlamov-Neuvirth coupling was strong, a duo of Vokoun and Neuvirth should challenge for the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed. With the Caps new defensive system figured into things and their improved defensive unit, it might not matter who starts in goal on a given night for Washington.

Still, when it boils down to who “the man” will be come playoff time, unless Vokoun’s game erodes completely he should be the man. If Neuvirth is able to play himself into the competition, however, the Caps hopes of winning the Stanley Cup this year will be stronger than ever.

  1. capsrockva - Aug 25, 2011 at 3:22 PM

    I like the fact that He’s not giving up on trying to be the starting goalie. I know that Vokoun is a great goalie playing on bad teams. I think it’s great we have 2 fantastic goalies

    • paulsdamnblog - Aug 25, 2011 at 6:25 PM

      Not a Caps fan, but I gotta say its nice to see a guy like that show he’s got a competitive streak in him. That bodes well for his future. Good opportunity to learn from a great goalie too.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Aug 25, 2011 at 9:07 PM

        Yeah it’s good to see a guy with that kind of competitive nature. Not only does that mean you have a backup that’s going to give you his best when he does get to play, but it also puts the pressure on Vokoun to stay on top of his game and be as good as he can be. The fact that the Caps have something they’ve been without for years, solid goaltending, means they could be scary good this season and actually make a Cup run

  2. cshearing - Aug 26, 2011 at 9:27 AM

    Why the condescending “that’s cute” remark? It’s not like Vokoun signed a huge deal, so should be logically considered the #1 guy. If this story was about Bobrovsky trying to be #1 in Philly, the comment would have made much more sense.

    As it is, we are looking at an aging goalie that has never played on a team as good (or a pressure filled) as Washington. I do not expect him to fail, but stranger things have happened.

  3. jpelle82 - Aug 26, 2011 at 1:44 PM

    vokoun hasnt won anything. why shouldnt neuvirth want to compete?

  4. oxyvikadin - Aug 26, 2011 at 2:05 PM

    I have said it once and I will say it again. The proverbial eggs are all in the proverbial basket with the Vokoun move. It is now or never for this edition of the Caps and it is nothing but good news that Neuvy has a chip on his shoulder (the right kind of chip I might add).

  5. jpelle82 - Aug 26, 2011 at 4:53 PM

    i wouldnt be surprised if we see braden holtby this year again too.

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