Among the main story lines as the Washington Capitals begin training camp today at KCI is the goalie competition between Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth. While Varlamov may have a slight edge at the moment, Neuvirth will have every opportunity to show he should be the starter when Washington opens the regular season.
That's a new dynamic for Neuvirth, who last season had 16 starts compared to 43 for departed Jose Theodore and 23 for Varlamov. As part of his fresh outlook, Neuvirth donned a new mask during today's practice. .
Half of the mask is painted with images representing his native Czech Republic while the other side has Washington imagery. The neck protector has Neuvirth's name painted in blue italic letters, a departure from his other mask that has his name in bigger red lettering.
A Swedish company designed the mask after speaking with Neuvirth in depth about his ideas. The sides also exchanged e-mails until they both agreed on the final design.
"It was my idea," Neuvirth said. "I talked to them on the phone and through e-mail. They sent me pictures, and I told them what I liked, what I don't like."
Last season Neuvirth went 9-4 with a 2.75 goals-against average and no shutouts. Varlamov was 15-4 with a 2.55 GAA and two shutouts in 23 starts.