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Capitals lack a clear No. 1 goalie

Dec 22, 2011, 9:31 PM EDT

St Louis Blues v Washington Capitals Getty Images

Going into this season, if you forced me to pick any team’s goalie duo – factoring in skill and cap hits* – I might just have chosen Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth. Of course, not much has gone as expected in Washington this season – and that cost-effective pairing hasn’t been excluded from the disappointment.’s Chuck Gormley asks a tough question, then: do the Capitals really have a No.1 goalie?

The current situation doesn’t it lend itself to an easy answer. Michal Neuvirth is scheduled to make his fourth start in a row tomorrow, so he’s carrying the torch right now. Vokoun’s crisis of confidence doesn’t help, either.

Still, Vokoun’s individual stats are better than Neuvy’s numbers and he certainly has the thicker resume. There are other goalie “situations” in the league, but there are a few things that make this one a little different:

source: AP1. Future vs. Now: When you look at battles such as Curtis Sanford vs. Steve Mason and Brian Elliott vs. Jaroslav Halak, they’re fights between should-be franchise youngsters and scrappy veterans trying to keep a job in the NHL. The scenario is different in Washington, as Vokoun is a should-be veteran starter while Neuvirth is the backup fighting for the No. 1 spot.

2. Contracts: While Mason and Halak are getting paid more and for longer, Vokoun only has a one-year deal while Neuvirth isn’t making much less and has an extra season in writing. In other words, there’s little to no price tag pressure to force the Capitals to throw Vokoun out there.


So what does it all mean? I’d say that the Capitals’ top job is fair game, which is a viewpoint backed up by Dale Hunter’s comments. Still, I’d say that – at this point in their careers – Vokoun is likely to produce better results. Perhaps sitting on the sidelines will allow him to get out of his head a little bit and rebound to the form that made him a nerdy blogger’s delight for so many years in Florida and Nashville.

* – Vokoun’s cap hit is $1.5 million and Neuvirth’s is $1.15 million. Only the Los Angeles Kings’ duo of Jonathan Quick ($1.8 million) and Jonathan Bernier ($1.25 million) is anywhere close in the “bang for buck” category. Or, maybe I should say, the expected bang for buck category.

  1. bigbear42 - Dec 22, 2011 at 10:07 PM

    I wouldnt be surprised if they gave Holtby a shot soon, if nothing more than to shake things up

    • dougr42 - Dec 22, 2011 at 11:03 PM

      agreed. kid was GOOD last year.

  2. tastybasslines - Dec 22, 2011 at 11:35 PM

    Neuvirth is good. He didn’t get to start any extended stretch this season. His GAA will keep going down.

  3. danphipps01 - Dec 23, 2011 at 1:08 AM

    So, yeah. Their star D-man is coming back who the fuck knows when. The rest of them are okay, but nothing to write home about. Their top-paid “star forward” is going to have to step up his game to break the thirty-goal mark. Fifty’s right out at this point. Their second star’s somehow even MORE mediocre, and their goaltending is laughable. If you told me to guess which team this was at the start of the season, I’d have said the Montreal goddamn Canadiens, who are just about the only Eastern team that have managed to actually be MORE of a trainwreck. At the rate they’re going, that first-round pick the Avs send ’em might actually be worse than the one they earn themselves. =/

    • bigbear42 - Dec 23, 2011 at 3:02 AM

      “Their second star’s somehow even MORE mediocre”

      Are you referring to Semin or Backstrom? Backstroms been pretty good(emphasis on pretty) but Semin has been a disaster.

      • danphipps01 - Dec 23, 2011 at 4:01 AM

        Semin’s SUPPOSED to be the second star, in theory, so that’s who I meant. Backstrom… well, it’s hard to hold much against him. The guys he’s supposed to be feeding barely shoot, rarely hit the net when they do, let alone score, and his abysmal +/- rating is the result of running one of the worst goaltending combos in play this season. Basically, it’s hard for me to criticize him too harshly when his statistical shortcomings are more or less everyone else’s fault. He’s trying. He’s just trying on a bad team. I think it’s entirely fair to call them that, now. They’re just… *bad*.

  4. davebabychreturns - Dec 23, 2011 at 12:39 PM

    I hope people remember predicaments like the one the Caps find themselves in right now the next time the cheap goalie philosophy becomes the theory du jour again among armchair GMs.

    (In fact I would suggest that the Kings aren’t much better off – although we’ll see how Bernier develops. Jon Quick is a decent young goaltender but he has some major holes in his game that are not being exposed because of their tight team defense. Teams are going to start burying those rebounds eventually.)

    Neuvirth is still just a kid for all his potential, and while they have Vokoun under a great contract right now, I think the fact that he took a deal like this suggests that his value around the league was not that great. Think about it – there are still goalies out there signing big contracts (look at Bryz in Philadelphia) and Vokoun’s reputation suggests he’s a goaltender of that calibre.. yet nobody was clamouring for him on July 1st. I would place him roughly in the same class as some of the other goaltenders signing at around his cap hit – Mike Smith, JS Giguere, Jose Theodore. Most of those guys are doing about as well as can be expected given the defense in front of them, and Vokoun is no exception.

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