With the Capitals set to visit the Philadelphia Flyers and their raucous fans on Thursday night, they also may be facing one of their former goaltenders in Michal Neuvirth (noy-vairt).
He was named the Caps’ starting goaltender in October 2011 and then competed with fellow 2006 draft pick (in fact, eight spots before) Semyon Varlamov for the number one gig. After Varlamov was traded the following summer, Neuvirth was set to fully secure the top spot before the Capitals signed veteran Tomas Vokoun to a one-year contract. While he still saw significant playing time, Neuvirth was primarily Vokoun’s backup and once the Stanley Cup playoffs arrived, both Neuvirth and Vokoun were injured. Braden Holtby was recalled from the Bears….excelled in the playoffs and essentially never left DC.
Entering the 2012-2013, Neuvirth was pretty confident he would be the starting goalie for the Caps, and even made what many Caps fans would consider disparaging remarks regarding Braden Holtby’s level of play. Neuvirth was quoted as saying he thought Braden Holtby is the ‘weakest competition’ he’s had“.
Holtby’s emergence put Neuvirth on the back burner in DC. Then-head coach Adam Oates named Holtby the starter for the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season and Neuvirth appeared in just 13 out of a possible 48 games, going 4-5-2 with a 2.74 Goals-Against Average (GAA) and .910 save percentage. From then on, Neuvirth’s time in DC seemed tenuous. Eventually, Neuvirth requested a trade after Philipp Grubauer created a three-goalie net, saying: “I want to be a No. 1, if not here than somewhere else. It’s simple, if I don’t play, I don’t get better.”
Many Capitals fans took Neuvirth’s comments a bit personally, and eventually, Neuvirth’s demands were met. At the 2014 NHL trade deadline, Neuvirth and defenseman Rostislav Klesla (acquired in a separate trade with the then-Phoenix Coyotes) were traded to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for fellow netminder Jaroslav Halak and a third-round pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
Neuvirth finally had a chance to establish himself as a number one in Buffalo, who had recently traded franchise goalie Ryan Miller to the St. Louis Blues for a package of players including Halak. Neuvirth played less than two seasons in Buffalo before being traded to the New York Islanders at the 2015 trade deadline. There, he was the backup to, ironically, Halak. A free agent after the season, he signed a two-year contract with the Flyers.
In his first year in Philly, Neuvirth has played far better than starter Steve Mason: in his first nine games, Neuvirth has gone 3-3-1, but with an impressive .929 save percentage and three shutouts. While the Flyers have not yet named their starter, it would be fun to see Neuvy suit up for the team he played 134 games for; with a record of 116-59-41, 2.67 GAA, seven shutouts, and .910 save percentage.
By Michael Fleetwood