Washington Capitals goaltender Michael Neuvirth will get his first start of the season tonight against the visiting Montreal Canadians as the Capitals look for their first win of the season.
Neuvirth is in a familiar position having to make a start with the Capitals enduring a losing streak.
During the 2010-11 season, the Capitals dropped eight straight games from Dec. 2 to Dec. 18. Yes, Neuvirth was the goalie of record in four of those losses, but he also helped get the Capitals out of the losing streak allowing just three goals in wins Dec. 19 and 21st of that season over the Ottawa Senators and New Jersey Devils.
Does winning two straight starts after losing four straight make you a great bearer of pressure? No, but he showed he could overcome his own struggles and turn in solid performances when the team needed them.
The Capitals defense has not played well in front of Braden Holtby the first two games as Holtby gave up 10 goals on 73 shots.
So, Neuvirth should ready himself for a barrage of shots and a lot of traffic in his face, but I suspect he will be ready for that kind of night.
Neuvirth was not happy that former coach Dale Hunter stayed with Holtby during the playoffs last season after Neuvirth returned from injury.
He made those feelings clear in an interview with a newspaper in his home Czech Republic during the offseason.
Point being, Neuvirth has extra motivation heading into tonight's game.
Does that motivation guarentee a strong start? No, because there are other variables Neuvirth can't control. Will Capital's defenders clear Canadian fowards out of the crease and get into shooting lanes? Will they force the Canadians to have to dump the puck to get into the zone and prevent them easy entry, and will their stamina hold up for the full 60 minutes?
If they do, I suspect Neuvirth will turn in the kind of performance the Capitals need to end this early season slide.