Michal Neuvirth is slated to make his fifth start in eight days tonight as the Capitals take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first of back-to-back games.
His overall numbers — 2.96 goals-against average and .889 save percentage — are somewhat deceiving. Eliminate his season debut – an ugly showing for the Capitals against Montreal — and look at just his four most recent starts, and Neuvirth’s save percentage is .944 with a 2.60 goals-against.
That consistency and a number of big saves that have helped keep the Capitals in close games are part of the reason why first-year bench boss Adam Oates is leaning on the 24-year-old right now.
“I haven’t been around for too long, but long enough to understand it, and right now Neuvy’s playing very well and deserves to play,” said Braden Holtby, who started the first two games of the season but hasn’t played since Jan. 22.
Holtby, 22, who gave up 10 goals in his two starts, may very well get into one of the two games over the next three days, either Friday at home against Philadelphia or Sunday against Pittsburgh.
He’s eager to get back in net, but he understands the role Neuvirth has played in the Capitals’ past few contests as they search for consistency.
“I obviously want to play every game. If either of us had it our way, we’d play every game,” Holtby said. “I obviously understand that we want to get some stability to our game right now and Michal’s giving it to us. That’s just the life of being a goaltender.”