May 24, 2012, 10:53 AM EDT
Of all the questions facing the Washington Capitals this offseason, the goaltending position shouldn’t be one of them. Braden Holtby stepped in and played magnificently during the playoffs and, theoretically, should be the No. 1 heading into next season.
Just don’t tell Michal Neuvirth that.
The 24-year-old Czech told the Washington Times he’s not ready to relinquish the starting gig. It was his prior to getting hurt in early April and, according to Neuvirth, it can be his again.
“I know I can be the No. 1 in this league,” he said. “That’s my goal. I will do whatever it takes to be the man.”
After starring in both the OHL and AHL levels, Neuvirth has struggled to emerge as a bonafide NHL starter. His most complete season came while platooning with Holtby and Semyon Varlamov in 2010-11 (27-12-4, .914 save percentage, 2.45 GAA), a performance that had him pegged for the No. 1 gig this year.
But when Washington went out and signed Tomas Vokoun, that narrative was halted. Neuvirth appeared in 10 fewer games than the year prior and struggled through foot and hip injuries.
As such, next year promises to be a really interesting one in Washington’s goal. Neuvirth and Holtby will be gunning for the No. 1 spot, and they’ll also both be RFAs in 2013.
In essence, they could be battling not just for a position, but also their respective futures with the Capitals.
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