Welcome to Caps 'Round the Clock, a blog covering the Washington Capitals and the NHL. In season, I update the Blog after every practice and on game day with Caps news and information, and then provide a recap and analysis after each contest. I also write a periodical Prospect Watch and weekly feature pieces on the state of the Men in Red and other things Capitals. And of course, I will post videos and tidbits from around the League and offer my two cents as the season wears on. In the offseason, I write a Report Card for each player, and will keep you updated on all the news about the Caps through the summer. I'm glad you're here, and hope you come back!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Neuvy Time On Hold

Michal Neuvirth's injury: not a big deal.
When the Capitals shocked the free world on July 2nd by signing free agent goalie Tomas Vokoun for pennies, almost everyone who followed the Caps and hockey in general thought that Vokoun would be the number one option in goal over incumbent Michal Neuvirth.  That belief was held firm up until the day before the season opener, when Bruce Boudreau shocked everyone again by naming Neuvirth his opening night starter, an honor typically reserved for the number one goalie.  As such, talk of a "goalie controversy" immediately spread like wildfire. This was Bruce Boudreau, after all, who is known for doing outlandish things when it comes to goaltending.  Could the Caps really start the season in a ludicrous goaltending timeshare?
But then, Neuvirth went and got himself injured.  As the young Czech goaltender revealed to reporters on Monday, he is dealing with a painful bruise along the top of his right foot which could possibly be a small fracture, suffered before Washington's 6-5 win over Tampa Bay last Monday night.  Neuvirth was able to back up that game, but has spent a total of 20 minutes practicing (on Monday) and been a scratch in both of Washington's games since.  And frankly, I couldn't be less worried about it.
In fact, I may even call myself a little bit relieved that Neuvirth has this "minor" injury.
Now before you call me an awful human being, hear me out.  No, I am not happy that Neuvirth is hurt.  I love him as a fan as much as the next person, and an injury to anyone is not something to celebrate, ever.  It really stinks for him, as he had just worked through an injury in the preseason, and getting hit on the top of the foot by a shot seems like a really flukey way to get hurt, especially with those pillows goalies wear these days.  Tough break for the guy; I feel for him.
But at the same time, I can't stop thinking about the goalie controversy that was, in fact, brewing at the time of Neuvirth's injury.  Even though Vokoun played very well for the final seven minutes of that win over Tampa, I have little doubt in my mind that if Neuvirth was healthy, Boudreau would have given him the call over Vokoun against the Penguins.  And then Caps universe would have exploded, with a goalie controversy in full swing, especially if Neuvirth had won that game in Pittsburgh.  That, my friends, would have been exhausting.
Which is why I am not worried and in a sense relieved about that fact that Neuvirth has this minor injury.  It does not appear that it is something that is going to keep him out long term and the fact that he was able to at least skate earlier this week bodes well for him in my opinion.
In the meantime, Vokoun has taken the starting goalie job for himself and began to run with it, fast.  The elder of DC's two Czech tenders has stopped 72 of 75 since that Tampa game, including some amazing saves against the Senators Saturday night, and has won the last two games for his team basically by himself. He deserved to play over Neuvirth in the first place, and it really should't have been a question in the first place.  Why, you ask?  Because as good as Neuvirth is, Vokoun is better.
This season isn't like seasons past when the Caps had two (or three, in some cases) goalies that they could basically interchange without a clear, steady starter named among them all year.  That's not the case now.  Washington has a legitimate star goalie to put in the net almost every night, something they haven't had since at least 2006.  Would the Canucks split time between Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo?  Um, no.
Now, Vokoun is basically locked into that number one role, and though Neuvirth will, and should, play when he's healthy, it's not going to be a timeshare.  The "goalie controversy" is over with a capital O.  Which is certainly a good thing, because the team is better when it's hitched to the Vokeswagon.

Okay, you can all yell at me now.

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