ROOKIE GOALIE PLAYED EVERY MINUTE IN FIRST ROUND
Plenty has been written -- at least in the D.C. market -- about Washington Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth after his fairly spectacular performance in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals win over the New York Rangers. But the young goaltender himself isn't paying attention to any of that right now.
"It's pretty nice, you know, but I'm just focusing on my game and trying to play my best for this team," Neuvirth said after Tuesday morning's spirited practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. "I'm not trying to look back. [I'm] just looking forward and just want to be focused and play my best for this team right now."
Neuvirth leads all NHL goalies that have played the majority of minutes for their team in goals against average and save percentage in the first round, allowing just eight goals in five games, and is one of a handful of goalies to play every minute for his team in the cage in the first round.
For example, the Philadelphia Flyers are starting their third different goalie in Game Seven tonight against the Buffalo Sabres.
Neuvirth is now 15-0 in playoff series in North America, including his stints with OHL Plymouth and AHL Hershey, backing the Bears to consecutive Calder Cups in 2008-09 and 2009-10. And while those minor leagues don't compare talent-wise to the NHL, it's still excelling at the highest competition level for those leagues.
Neuvirth, for one, believes that experience is helping him focus now that he's competing in the playoffs with the big club.
"Oh yeah, for sure. Every playoffs is still playoffs so there is a lot of pressure," Neuvirth remarked. "Those weren't easy [games] when we were in Hershey. It was a tough circumstance. It gave me a lot of experience. [Round two is] not going to be easy but I think I can handle it and I can't wait for next game."
Since the Caps were able to close things out against the Rangers in five games, and with all the other Eastern Conference matchups going past that, Washington has a few days to rest, practice, and get ready for the next opponent. Neuvirth isn't concerning himself with the games still going on, though he is anxious to get back in the net and get going again.
"We had a tough practice today and had a fun practice yesterday, but obviously we're pretty excited about our next round and it's gonna be another great opportunity for our team. We're pretty excited to play and I think a lot of the guys can't wait until the games start [again]."
With the extra time, does the clear No. 1 goalie dwell on who the next opponent might be? Does he care?
"Not thinking about it right now," Neuvy said. "Just gonna wait to see what happens and we'll find out tonight or tomorrow night who we're gonna face and obviously we're gonna get ready. It's not gonna be easy, all the teams are very good and it's not going to be easy."
GREEN PRACTICES, WANTS TO TALK ABOUT HOCKEY
Defenseman Mike Green, who was felled by a Matt Gilroy slap shot in the first period of Game Five against the Rangers, participated fully in this morning's practice and afterward reported no ill effects. "I'm fine, other than a bruise,” said Green.
When asked if he was worried about another concussion, after he missed 26 games at the end of the season, he replied, "No, not at all. The first one was a lot different than this one. Right away I knew with the first one; this one I got up right away. Other than it stinging a little bit, I was fine.”
“They make good helmets, and this time it hit me in the helmet. I’m okay, so that’s all that matters,” Green said. “I think that time, it happened so quick that it’s pretty tender and sore when it did happen. But like I said, thank god for those helmets and I’m very fortunate.”
He then requested that the reporters change the subject to talk about hockey. "I feel great," Green said. "I had a good skate today. We worked hard. I feel good."
KNUBLE AND WIDEMAN SKATE (POTI TOO)
All three injured Capitals skated before the team came out for practice in full pads, but only Knuble stayed out for the regular practice, and even then did not participate fully in line rushes. Wideman left practice after before most of his teammates were out of the dressing room, suffering from some light-headedness.
“His legs are feeling fine,” coach Bruce Boudreau said of his Wideman, recovering from a hematoma to his leg and compartment syndrome. “He was a little dizzy today so we [said] get off -- or lightheaded, not dizzy -- and so just to make sure he’s fine.”
Wideman looked to be skating pretty free and easy, but did not do any full out sprints or hard stops during the time he was skating.
Knuble said he's feeling good, but does not have a timetable for return. “I’ve been skating every day, just trying to keep my legs up and stuff,” Knuble said. “I’m encouraged by the way things are going and you just do your best to stay with the group and keep up with the pace of play so when you do come back it’s not a huge adjustment."
The veteran forward reitereated that he would indeed play in the second round, though that has not been confirmed -- or refuted -- by the team.
SEMIN MISSES PRACTICE WITH FLU-LIKE SYMPTOMS
Boudreau said winger Alexander Semin was feeling a little under the weather and told him to stay home from practice today, considering the team has several more practice days available this week.
“He’s fine. He had a little bit of the flu so we just said ‘listen, stay at home,’” Boudreau said. “We still got Wednesday, Thursday, minimum -- practices probably Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. We don’t know when we’re starting yet.”
Semin had three goals and an assist in the first round against New York.