Monday, July 5, 2010
Bears Beneficiaries of Neuvirth's Net Gains
If there is one word to describe the career of goaltender, Michal Neuvirth, it would be resilient. Seemingly in one situation after another, he has been able to bounce back into his game, even after facing long odds.
In fact, one can trace the beginning of the pattern back to his junior career when he played for three teams in two years, and ironically, was once traded for a guy with the same name as one who is known for his bouncing abilities, Michal Jordan.
Selected by the Washington Capitals with the 34th pick in the 2006 draft, eleven slots behind Semyon Varlamov, Neuvirth has had to battle for ice time with the Capitals ever since. Though Varlamov has played more games in the show than Neuvirth, and has also appeared in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Neuvy has spent the majority of his time backstopping the Hershey Bears to back-to-back Calder Cup championships.
With the Caps unsettled goaltending situation heading into next season, Neuvirth seems poised to give Varlomov a run for his money to be the number one man in the district to start the 2010-11 season.
“You never know because it’s a crazy business,” he said. “I don’t really know what’s going to happen, but I have nothing left to prove in this league. My goal is to play in the NHL and that’s where I want to play next year. I’ll do whatever it takes to get there.”
Neuvirth continued, “I feel good about my game, but maybe I can improve something. I definitely want to get stronger. I’m feeling exhausted right now, and if I want to play 60 or 70 games in a season, I have to get stronger and get in better shape. I’m going to take a few weeks off and then start working out and getting ready for next season and hopefully I’ll be in the NHL.”
Heading into the playoffs as the reigning MVP of the Calder Cup playoffs where he had set an AHL record with a glittering 1.92 GAA, Neuvirth shouldered the pressure gracefully and rose to the occasion.
“I was coming back from a tough injury during the regular season and I was just coming back from that,” said Neuvirth. “I had the good playoffs last year, so I didn’t think about the pressure. I knew that I had already done it last year, and I was just focused on playing my game.”
After giving up a soft game-winning goal in the closing moments of game two on home ice against the Texas Stars, Neuvirth buckled down through the rest of the series and stopped all 46 shots he faced in the third periods and overtime, and allowed only six goals through the remainder of the playoffs.
“It was just a lucky bounce; crazy bounces happen all the time,” he said of allowing the game-two winner. “I felt bad we lost, but I still believed we were a better team than them. It was a huge win for them, but we came back and made sure we won three games on the road and clinched it at home, which was something special.”
At the Bears’ Calder Cup Championship celebration where the players saluted their fans on home ice, the Czech native couldn’t help but talk about his home.
“I haven’t seen my mom in 10 months, so I’m going to visit my family right when I get home. When I get home on Friday night and I’ll go downtown and see my buddies and hang out. I’m really pumped about going home.”
Photo courtesy of JUSTSPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY