Update: Vokoun’s agent, Allan Walsh, told the Washington Times on Friday night that the decision to start Neuvirth can be “perceived as a slap in the face.” Walsh added that Vokoun was “very disappointed.”
Update: Michal Neuvirth confirmed that he will start on Saturday against the Hurricanes at Verizon Center and that he was informed of the decision after practice Friday.
“It feels pretty good. I’m pretty excited about the game tomorrow, we want to win on home ice,” Neuvirth said. “I was a little surprised, but I think I had a great training camp and very good preseason games and probably that’s why I’m playing tomorrow.”
Original post: Of all the roster possibilities and combinations that have been mulled over about how the Capitals’ roster would look like on the opening night of the 2011-12 season, there never seemed to be a question as to which goaltender would start.
On Friday, though, Tomas Vokoun dropped a bombshell when asked if he was nervous about the first game of the year.
“No, I’m not really nervous because I’m not playing,” Vokoun said. “Whatever, you know. Supposedly I’m going to play the next game.”
Asked why he chose to go with 23-year-old Michal Neuvirth instead of Vokoun for the opener, Boudreau declined to respond.
“I didn’t know that was public knowledge,” Boudreau said. “Well, I’m not ready to comment on that.”
It’s a surprising turn considering how many times Boudreau said that Vokoun deserved the respect of being considered the No. 1 netminder since the 35-year-old Czech signed with Washington on July 2.
In the preseason, Vokoun finished 1-2-0 with a 3.26 goals against average and .870 save percentage while Neuvirth had a 2-1-0 record with a 1.34 goals-against average and .949 save percentage.
But after the preseason finale against Chicago on Oct. 2, Boudreau was asked if Neuvirth’s preseason performance might have unseated the veteran goaltender from the top spot and said no.
“Tomas is number one, but we’ve got a number one-A,” Boudreau said following Washington’s 4-1 win over the Blackhawks. “Training camp, you’ve got guys that come in that deserve the respect to be where they were and Tomas has earned that. Michal’s been very good...Michal’s going to play a lot of hockey this year but I don’t think you look at that.
“It’d be like saying, okay, Jason Chimera played better than Alex Ovechkin in the preseason,” he continued. “Does that mean Jason Chimera is now the number one left wing over Alex Ovechkin? I don’t think that’s a fair question.”