Once the bridesmaid, never the bride. That should be something that Washington Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth should be happy to shed this season. He's not exactly the #1 goaltender for sure yet, but to hear him talk he should have no problem capturing that spot now that Tomas Vokoun left the Washington Capitals to join the Pittsburgh Penguins... per Neuvirth's own advice.
Candor's a great thing for an athlete to have, and it's something we hockey fans often harp on players for not having enough of. "Show your personality!" we say. Maybe we need to amend it to "Show your personality but try not to come across like an idiot/pompous jerk/whatever." Neuvirth's candor while talking to iSport.cz might've gotten him in some hot water with Capitals fans and his co-goaltender and playoff hero Braden Holtby. From Russian Machine Never Breaks, who broke this story:
It’s true that until now, I have never been an official number one. But I have played just over a hundred games in NHL. That’s nothing. I’m starting the season sure that I want to play forty/fifty games and I am really sure that I have the weakest competition (Braden Holtby) I’ve ever had. I will try to be number one goalie this season. Finally!
Ow. Talk about not thinking how something sounds before you say it. Neuvirth's right, Holtby is the weakest competition he's had so far out of him, Varlamov, and Vokoun (and Neuvirth clarifies that statement later the same way that I just did). That doesn't mean he's someone Neuvirth's going to waltz right over and snag the starting job from. Heck, even the goal (40-50 games) isn't a starting job, it's one half of a 1A/1B tandem. But hey, aim high, kid. Just don't knock the other half of the tandem who has more playoff wins than you.
It gets better.
[I]t’s important to look at which players always were in tandem with me. At first – the Russian [Semyon Varlamov] who was always in front of me because he was drafted higher and played in the NHL sooner. It was hard to get in front of him. But in the end I played much more than he did. Last year, I had Voky (Tomáš Vokoun) next to me and I guessed in advance that he would probably get more space in the goal than I would. I came to camp ready, but it the end the season was as it was… I left it behind and I’m starting the new one ready to fight for my spot.
"the Russian." Way to learn teammates names or publicly air the fact that you might not've cared for him much. "Some dude who got more playing time just because he had more experience. Pfft. Whatevs." Just say that, Neuvirth. Say what you feel.
Also of note:
I was the one who advised him to leave for Pittsburgh. I know he had many offers from Russia [Editor's note: Vokoun had been rumored to be considering joining the reformed Lokomotiv team], but I told him not to go there especially. Just when I was at his place, a few teams contacted him and I told him to go with the Pens. He has a big chance to win the Stanley Cup there. Besides, they told [Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury] he will play less, because his last playoffs didn’t really work out as well.
"Psst. Hey, why don't you join the Capitals biggest rival next season. You'll probably have a better chance of winning the Stanley Cup there and hey, you won't be playing in the KHL." Interesting to note the bit about Fleury there. I would love to know on whose authority Neuvirth has it that the Pens coaching staff told Fleury that he'd play less because of the clusterfark he was in the playoffs.
You can't say that Neuvirth doesn't say what he thinks, though maybe that tendency was increased by the fact that he was speaking to non-North American press. Still, you can say what you want, just make sure that you use the right words to say it. You can have a personality without causing a stir.
The rest of the interview is bombshell stuff, so make sure you read the complete translation at RMNB for Neuvirth's thoughts on Alexanders Semin and Ovechkin.
Boy. Talk about a guy putting a foot in his mouth. I'm not sure I follow his reasoning about Holtby. Did Neuvirth sleep through the playoffs or something?
I thought Michael Neuvirth was on crack BEFORE he made those remarks. Now I'm sure of it. He thinks that Braden Holtby is marginal competition for him at best??! All Braden did (as I predicted he would) was almost single-handedly propel the Capitals through the first two rounds of last season's playoffs. Neuvirth, on the other hand, has had a bad habit of letting in at least one "softie" per start--sometimes more--and always at the worst possible times. Braden plays angles better than Neuvirth ever has, controls rebounds more adroitly and handles the puck behind the net twice as well as Michael does. Until he improves in those areas Neuvirth will be no more than a decent backup. Holtby is clearly a saner option between the pipes (if not also between the ears)