WASHINGTON - Upon further review, there is a logical reason why rookie Washington Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth did not display any rookie butterflies during his first NHL playoff series.
Care to explain, Nicklas Backstrom?
“Simple ... he doesn’t HAVE nerves,” the Caps forward said of his rookie goaltender, who was simply outstanding in the Caps five-game elimination of the New York Rangers in the first round of the 2011 playoffs.
Pretty much unflappable from start to finish, even when being heckled by the unforgiving Madison Square Garden faithful, Neuvirth allowed just eight goals in five games and leads all playoff goalies with a 1.38 goals-against average and .946 save percentage.
“The way the guys have been playing in front of me has been unbelievable - blocking shots and playing defence the way that they have,” Neuvirth said after the Caps 3-1 series-clinching victory over the New York Rangers on Saturday afternoon.
In the process, Neuvirth managed to outduel one of the game’s top puckstoppers, Henrik Lundqvist, although the Rangers goalie was far busier than his Washington counterpart.
“It’s unbelievable,” Neuvirth said. “It means a lot to me. He’s one of the top goalies in the league.”
According to Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, Neuvirth is not all that far from reaching that plateau himself.
“He didn’t give them a chance (to gain momentum),” Boudreau said. “He was great covering up pucks and he didn’t allow rebounds. Then we get chances to change and slow it down when we wanted to do that.
“I’m telling you - a lot of people don’t know his name too much, at least outside our circles - but he’s a heck of a goalie.”
Nicklas Backstrom and his teammates would certainly agree.