Capitals Player Report Card: Michal Neuvirth
June 19, 2011 Leave a comment
Stats: 45 GS 27-12-4, .922 Sv%, 2.45 GAA, 1. 11 SAA (Saves Above Average)
Contract Info: $1,015,000 cap hit, signed through 2012-13
You could say that Michal Neuvirth “stole” the starting goaltender position from Semyon Varlamov since many thought that Varly would be the #1 guy going into this season. However, injuries once again sidelined Varlamov and most of the Caps fanbase knew that Neuvirth had a lot of promise and he took advantage of the opportunity given to him by starting 45 games and being very solid in most of them. He also started every playoff game where he was also solid and showed that he can play well in big game situations. The question going around is whether or not Neuvirth is ready to be the Caps #1 goalie, which he could be if Varlamov elects to leave.
I have stated over the course of the year that Neuvirth didn’t exactly “win” the starting job from Varlamov because Varly was hurt so many times this year and Neuvirth played well enough to not lose it. I was still very pleased with how he played this year because after the last few years of inconsistencies in net, it’s nice to have a goalie who can put up above average numbers and Neuvirth did just that this year. One thing I thought was overblown was how he was declared the team’s “MVP” for the first month of the season. He was very good, but was given a good amount of goal support in the games the Caps won. He did have to see a lot of shots in many games that month, though. I took a closer look at Neuvirth’s season in a post before the playoffs which showed that he actually posted better save percentages in February and March but those were with a lesser shot total than in October. It’s still a good sign that he played his best hockey in those two months and also posted a .912 save percentage in the playoffs.
What troubles me about Neuvirth is that while he was good, he posted worse numbers than both Varlamov and Holtby. Although, he saw a lot more playing time than those two and it’s unsure of how either of those two numbers would look if they saw as many shots as Neuvirth did. I also think this is more of a testament to the organizational depth this team has at the goalie position than a knock on Neuvirth. I am also not sure of how high Neuvirth’s ceiling is. We all know he’s a former 2nd round pick, has played great in Europe and in the AHL and has the ability to steal games but in the NHL, he’s shown to be very streaky so it’s hard to tell just what we have in Neuvirth. Is he a league average goalie or a little above or below that? If a goalie wants to stick around in the NHL, he better be lights out when he gets a start and that’s what Neuvirth did for about a month. If you look at the link I posted earlier, you’ll see that he struggled big time in November and December but seemingly turned it around after an injury filled month of January. This just reinforces my belief that I’m not sure what exactly we have in Neuvirth since he’s obviously not Tim Thomas yet but he certainly isn’t Brian Elliott either. His good play in the post-season was promising.
Neuvirth gets a B from me for putting up solid numbers and for playing well enough to hang onto the starting position even though I don’t think he’s the best goalie on the team. I think he’s a great talent, though and we will see just what we have in him next season and if he can hold onto the #1 job for another year. He’s under team control for another couple years so we have time to find out at least.