While there will be several positional battles that play out over the course of the next three weeks before the Capitals' season opener against Atlanta on Oct. 8, perhaps none will extend beyond these training camp days quite like the one in goal. After Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth spent the past two seasons maturing in the organization, it's time for them to prove they are capable of being the team's workhorse goaltender.
I wrote about the opportunity each enters training camp hoping to seize for Saturday's paper, but here are some extras that didn't make it in to the hard copy edition.
One of the key differences between the pair of goalies has been their trajectory over the past two years. But there's little reason to think that Neuvirth's position as the top netminder in Hershey during back-to-back Calder Cup winning seasons puts him at a disadvantage. While being sent down at the start of last season was tough for Neuvirth, he reacted as well as he possibly could.
"I just told myself, 'OK, I can do something special here.'" Neuvirth said. "Winning the Calder Cup twice in a row isn't easy, but that was my goal and I did it....I had great times in Hershey; it was good for me, but I want to put that behind me now."
He might not be the flashiest of goaltenders, but his calmness is an asset at such a young age, according to goaltending coach Arturs Irbe.
"I consider him beyond his years in understanding how the game is supposed to be played from our position," Irbe said. "It's pretty interesting, pretty unique style for a young guy. Playing that way, he's always in position, he never sets himself up to fail and I think he knows what he needs to do to use that to his advantage."
Then there's Varlamov, who was resolutely determined to be in the best shape possible after nagging groin and knee injuries limited how many games he played last year. He arrived in Washington in early August to train with Capitals strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish.
"I started training at the beginning of July," Varlamov said with Irbe serving as a translator. "I changed up my approach to come back here because it's much easier to be under [Nemish's] control and watching eye. I made the decision to be as well prepared as possible for when hockey starts."
Although training camp marks the start of this competition, it will likely stretch through the season depending on who's healthy, who's succeeding and who can prove consistently that he is truly ready to take this next step.
FROM THE POST
Training camp marks the beginning of what could be a season-long competition between Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov to become the Capitals' No. 1 netminder.
What is fall without a new slate of Bruce Boudreau commercials? This one's for Hadeed Carpet. (D.C. Sports Bog via RMNB)
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