Tag:Michal Neuvirth
Posted on: October 11, 2011 12:33 am
Edited on: October 11, 2011 12:13 pm
 

Capitals debut hardly smooth for Vokoun

By Brian Stubits

WASHINGTON -- As far as first impressions go, this one was way down the list.

Tomas Vokoun played his first game with the Washington Capitals on Tuesday against the Lightning, and, well, it was ugly. But don't take my word for it. Take Vokoun's, who still got credit for the win despite giving up five goals on 28 Lightning shots.

“I can’t tell you the last time I remember having as bad a game as I did tonight,” Vokoun said. "It just shows how strong this team is. They literally won today without goaltending. We won the game ... certainly not thanks to me.”

The night got off to a rather ominous start. Vokoun surrendered a goal before every actually facing a shot from the opposition. The Bolts' first "shot" of the night was a centering pass from behind the goal line from Teddy Purcell that bounced right off Caps defenseman Mike Green's skates and in. Not much he could do there.

The second goal, though? Again, beat from behind the goal line, this time the puck squeezing in on his near side. It was ugly. At that point you could already hear the fans inside Verizon Center asking "THIS is the guy that's supposed to lead us to the Cup?"

After a few more Tampa Bay goals -- in Vokoun's defense, there were a couple of nice deflections from the Lightning and another time a man sat on his doorstep in the crease unmanned -- it got to the point that the crowd couldn't help itself anymore. A puck came trickling into the zone and Vokoun calmly shuffled it on to a defenseman, leading to a nice sarcastic ovation from the Caps faithful.

“Once you get a little bit on the heels, you’re misreading the plays and it was just ugly, ugly, ugly game for me,” Vokoun said. “Every time I thought something’s going to happen, the exact opposite [happened]. Sometimes you go through games like that.”

But Vokoun ended up redeeming himself. When it came time for the OT -- thanks to a late Jason Chimera tally, his second of the game -- he was spectacular. He helped the Capitals kill off time on the 4-on-3 and then stonewalled Tampa Bay's only two attemps in the shootout and totally redeemed himself. Or at least saved face.

“If you asked Tomas, he’ll be the first one to tell you that’s probably not the way he wrote the script," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game. "I guess if you’re trying to look at the big picture, it takes a guy with a lot of mental toughness top lay like that. And then in the overtime when you’re having four-on-three against you and you make those three or four huge saves. I got to believe if it was me, I would have been so mentally out of it… and he comes up and he makes those big saves and he makes the save in the shootout. It told me a lot about his character and it ends up as a positive thing even if he didn’t have a positive game for the most part.”

But in the world of first impressions, this one wasn't the best. Coming on the heels of his agent saying the decision to start Michal Neuvirth in the opening game was a slap in the face? That's a little bit of a whole to dig out of. So long as he's as good as he was when it mattered most, that shouldn't be a problem.

“I’m going to make a promise I’m going to get them back sometime when they need me.”

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 7, 2011 9:11 pm
Edited on: October 7, 2011 9:55 pm
 

Vokoun's agent speaks out on goalie situation

TV1By: Adam Gretz

When it was reported on Friday afternoon that Michal Neuvirth, and not Tomas Vokoun, would be the opening night goaltender for the Washington Capitals you had to expect some sort of controversy to build, and it didn't take long for that to happen.

Allan Walsh, the agent for Vokoun, told Stephen Whyno of the Washington Times Friday evening that coach Bruce Boudreau's decision "could be perceived as a slap in the face" to the 35-year-old goaltender who signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Capitals this summer.

It's been an interesting situation to watch from the start as it was widely assumed that Vokoun would be the No. 1 starter due to his recent track record with the Florida Panthers. Neuvirth, however, refused to concede the job that he perceived to be his and talked multiple times about how he planned to keep his spot as the starter. And for at least one night -- the first night of the season -- he did.

More from the Times:
To Vokoun’s agent, it was not only a surprise but it also could be “perceived as a slap in the face.” Allan Walsh told The Washington Times in a telephone interview Friday night that his client was “very disappointed” by the decision.

“He was told he was coming into Washington as the No. 1 goalie,” Walsh told The Times. “They were very public in their comments about that. … There’s a certain symbolism attached to who starts the first game of the season at home. It doesn’t mean he’s not a No. 1 goalie. But this can certainly be perceived as a slap in the face."

Walsh, who is no stranger to taking to Twitter and social media to speak up for his clients, also added that "all around the league, the No. 1 goalie on teams is starting on opening night." And that's how your controversy starts. For now, anyway. Earlier this week Boudreau said that he considers the two players to be "1 and 1B" when it comes to their standing on the depth chart, and anytime you're dealing with two players that are capable of being the starter -- and both of these guys are -- somebody is going to have to swallow some pride every now and take the occassional seat.

Plus, most teams like to get both goalies a start as early as possible at the beginning of the season, and the Capitals' next two games after the opener are against Tampa Bay, their top competition within the Division, and Pittsburgh, their top competition within the conference. It should be interesting to see which goalie gets the call in those two games.

If it's Vokoun, this whole thing likely blows over and becomes much ado about nothing. If it's Neuvirth? Things might get interesting.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: October 7, 2011 1:44 pm
Edited on: October 7, 2011 4:03 pm
 

Neuvirth to start Capitals opener, not Vokoun

By Brian Stubits

Perhaps the biggest of the Capitals offseason acquisition was the steal of Tomas Vokoun for only $1.5 million. So naturally he's starting the season opener, right? Wrong.

The Capitals threw a minor curveball on Friday by announcing that Michal Neuvirth, not Vokoun, will start the season opener Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes.

"I just found out after practice, and, yeah, I was a little surprised," Neuvirth said after Friday's practice. "I think I had a great training camp and had very good preseason games and probably that's why I'm playing tomorrow."

The news was actually broken by Vokoun himself. When asked if he was at all nervous about Friday's game, he responded honestly.

“No, I'm not really nervous because I'm not playing,” Vokoun said. “Supposedly I'm going to play the next game.

"Certainly, it's a surprise," Vokoun told CSN Washington. "It's not my decision. Sometimes you like [those decisions], sometimes you don't like them. We haven't even played a game yet, so it's premature to be upset. It's not a good feeling, but I've played hockey for 30 years. Things happen."

He says he's not upset about it yet, but it seems clear he's not happy.

Since the Caps signed Vokoun, coach Bruce Boudreau has made no bones about it: Vokoun is his starting goaltender. Neuvirth took a majority of the starts last year, splitting the duties with Semyon Varlamov, now with the Avalanche. But Vokoun has experience, a history of success -- but not in the playoffs -- and the endorsement from management on his side.

Dare we say this is the beginning of a controversy in Washington? It's still too early to answer that question. But it certainly seems unusual to start your backup goalie on opening night ... at home no less. Not the best way to start the relationship with Vokoun for Boudreau.

Neuvirth did play very well this preseason, going 2-1-0 with a .949 save percentage and 1.35 goals against average and perhaps Boudreau is just honoring for that. But that won't quiet the questions.

Bombshell? Not exactly. But surprising? For that it qualifies.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 5, 2011 12:20 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2011 12:43 pm
 

50 things to know, ask and watch for this season

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By: Adam Gretz


The biggest thing we're watching as the NHL gets ready to drop the puck on the 2011-12 season is when will Penguins captain Sidney Crosby be able return to the lineup?

The only answer to that question, of course, is simply "when he's ready," and not a moment sooner.

But when will that be? That's the question we've been asking since January, and even though it appears to be getting closer, and optimism about his return is higher than it's ever been since he was knocked out of the lineup on Jan. 6, he's not going to be on the ice when the Penguins open up in Vancouver on Thursday night, and he isn't likely to be cleared for contact until Pittsburgh returns from its season-opening trek through western Canada.

Perhaps just as important as when he returns, is whether or not he'll be the same player he was before he left. Prior to the injury Crosby's game had evolved over the previous two seasons to the point where he went from being a great set-up man to the Penguins' go-to goal-scorer, as well as their No. 1 option in the face-off circle. When he left the Penguins' lineup last season he was in the middle of the best year of his career and was on a pace to shatter just about all of his previous career highs.

Not only due to the length of his absence from the game and from contact, but also because of the nature of the injury, there has to be a question of how quickly he'll be able to be that player again.

So that's the big story we're watching this year, and here the other 49 of our 50 things to know, ask and watch for during the 2010-11 season…

2. CBA Talks: This likely won't be settled during the season, but it's still going to loom large and is the giant elephant sitting in the living room ready to make a huge stinking mess all over the couch and floor if you don't feed him on time. The NFL had its lockout come and go, missing only a couple of weeks of training camp and a meaningless preseason game, and the NBA lockout continues to roll on. And soon it will be the NHL's turn. The last time the league was in this situation we lost an entire season, so there's that to keep in mind. Meanwhile, Major League Baseball continues to have labor peace. What a strange world we live in.

3. Brendan Shanahan: The first question we have is whether or not Brendan Shanahan will get tired of making those videos? (We hope the answer is no; because they're great). The second question is whether or not the suspensions will continue at the same torrid pace we saw in the preseason, or if that was simply the "message sending" phase? And if so, will the players get the message?

4. Player safety debates: After a disturbingly dreadful summer that saw the untimely deaths of three young players, all of whom were fighters, the fighting debate reached an entirely new level, even though we don't know how -- or if -- the two were connected. Should all hits to the head be banned? Is no-touch icing long overdue? Crosby's concussion is the one everybody is talking about, but there's also Matthew Lombardi in Toronto and his recovery. Marc Staal, the top defenseman for the New York Rangers, is still having problems following the concussion he suffered late last season, and there's concern as to whether or not Marc Savard of the Boston Bruins will ever play in an NHL game again.

5. Winter Classic: The highlight of the NHL's regular season schedule takes place in Philadelphia between two bitter rivals, the Flyers and Rangers, on Jan. 2. It's the first time a New York team has appeared in the game, and the Flyers host it for the first time after losing to Boston in overtime back in 2010. Last year's game in Pittsburgh featured unseasonable warmth and rain, forcing a delay and some miserable ice conditions. Here's hoping Eastern Pennsylvania gives us better weather.

6. Winnipeg Jets return: The playoffs would be great for no other reason than to see a return of the Winnipeg Whiteout, but even though that seems like a long shot at this point their first taste of the NHL since 1996 should make every game at the MTS Centre have the feel of a Stanley Cup Final game.



7. Bruins repeat attempt: Over the past 20 years we've only seen two teams repeat as Stanley Cup Champions -- the 1991 and 1992 Pittsburgh Penguins and the 1996 and 1997 Detroit Red Wings. The Bruins seem to have what it takes to return to the top of the NHL mountain.

8. Realignment decision: The NHL hasnt gone through a divisional realignment in over a decade but it appears to be coming. Detroit wants to go to the East and claims that it's been promised that it will happen, and Winnipeg should be headed to the west.  What other changes -- if any -- will we see?

9. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: The No. 1 overall pick in the June draft is starting the season with the Edmonton Oilers after a strong preseason effort. Is it simply a nine-game look before he gets sent back to his Junior team, or does he make it through the entire season with the big club? Recent history is on his side for making a full-season stay with the Oilers.

10. The NBA lockout: No, this isn't specifically an NHL issue, but if the NBA lockout rolls into the regular season will the NHL gain more exposure because of it, and, perhaps more importantly, will the league be able to take advantage of that opportunity?

11. Life in Philly without Richards and Carter and with Bryzgalov: After a revolving door of mediocre goaltending and an endless list of questions about the position over the years, the Philadelphia Flyers went all in on Ilya Bryzgalov. And now there are some questions about how they'll be able to score after trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.

12. Capitals' offensive/defensive balance: Last season the Washington Capitals went from a run-and-gun offensive juggernaut to a defensive-minded team that went from 15th in goals allowed per game the previous season all the way up to fourth. Can they find the happy medium this season and finally get over the playoff hump?

SW313. Nashville negotiations: It took the arbitration process to get Shea Weber signed to a one-year deal, and he's up for restricted free agency again this offseason. Even worse for the Predators is the upcoming unrestricted free agency of Ryan Suter. And don't forget starting goaltender, and last year's runner-up in the Vezina voting, Pekka Rinne. Two big-time defensemen, a top goalie and three massive contract questions for one of the NHL's most efficient franchises.

14. Doughty's new dough: Drew Doughty is now the third highest paid defensemen in the NHL on a yearly basis, and that means he's going to be expected to play like one of the top defensemen in the NHL. He's shown he's capable of it in the past, but his production regressed a bit last season. When you're making over $7 million a year that can no longer happen.

15. Sales of Dallas, Phoenix and St. Louis: We're still waiting for some sort of resolution to the three ownership sales that have dragged on for quite a while.

16. Year two of Boucher in Tampa Bay: In his debut season Guy Boucher took the Tampa Bay Lightning to within one game of the Stanley Cup Finals, and that surely has expectations high for his second year on the job.

17. New-look Sharks: Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi are gone. Martin Havlat and Brent Burns are in. Either San Jose and Minnesota are swapping rosters one trade at a time, or the Sharks feel these are the moves that can finally get them to kick through the door that has been the Western Conference Finals.

18. Perry's encore: OK, let's be honest, nobody had Corey Perry scoring 50 goals and leading the NHL last season, right? He's always been an excellent player -- and a frustrating one to play against, and an easy player to, let's say ... dislike, when he's not on your team-- but prior to last year he only topped the 30-goal mark once in his career. Logic says he returns closer to the 30-goal player he's always been. But logic also said he wouldn't score 50 goals last year.

19. Thomas, the Vezina and the Hart Trophy: Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas has won the Vezina Trophy two of the past three years, and would have to be the early season favorite to win it again. He's also set his sights on another major NHL award: The Hart Trophy. That one is going to be tough simply because goalies don't typically win that award. It's only happened seven times in the history of the league, and only three times since the league expanded beyond six teams -- Jose Theodore in 2002, and back-to-back wins for Dominik Hasek in 1997 and 1998.  

20. First-year coaches: Is there a Guy Boucher rookie success story among the NHL's new head coaches, including first-year guys like Minnesota's Mike Yeo, Florida's Kevin Dineen, Winnipeg's Claude Noel and Ottawa's Paul MacLean?

21. Pegula-ville: Buffalo has always been a great hockey town, but these people are absolutely stoked about their new owner, and he went on a summer spending spree that topped just about every other team in the league. But will it pay off?

22. NHL starts in Europe: The Ducks, Sabres, Rangers and Kings are all opening their season in Europe. Will one of these teams lift Lord Stanley's Cup at the end of the season? Fun fact: In each of the past three seasons a team that started its season overseas ended up winning the Stanley Cup -- Pittsburgh in 2008, Chicago in 2009 and Boston in 2010.

23. Brodeur's last hurrah? Martin Brodeur has accomplished just about everything a goaltender can accomplish as a hockey player, but will this be his final year in the NHL? Back in April he hinted that it could be.

BR124. Rangers have a new star: Hello, Brad Richards. You're the latest free agent savior of the New York Rangers! Actually, after so many free agency failures over the years this might be one signing that really does pay off for blue shirts in a big way.

25. Islanders arena situation: What will come of the Islanders quest for a new -- and needed -- home? Is Brooklyn the answer?

26. Sophomore slumps: Do you believe in the Sophomore jinx? Personally, I don't, but I am curious to see what Carolina's Jeff Skinner and San Jose's Logan Couture have to offer in year two.

27. New Panthers ... new results? No team was busier this summer than the Florida Panthers, completely overhauling their roster, in part because they had to spend an obscene amount of money just to reach the NHL's salary cap floor. It's definitely a new team, but is it a better team? I guess that depends on how much faith you have in Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky and Scott Upshall.

28. How bad are the Senators? On paper, it looks like it's going to be a long season for Ottawa as it celebrates its 20th year in the NHL, but how bad are we talking here? Simply on the outside of the playoff picture, or are we looking at a team that's competing for the worst mark in the NHL?

29. Breakthrough year for Kings: After acquiring Mike Richards the Kings went from being a playoff team in the Western Conference to a legitimate Stanley Cup contender with the type of depth down the middle (Richards, Anze Kopitar and Jarett Stoll) a team needs to win it all.

30. Hiller's recovery from vertigo: Jonas Hiller says the vertigo symptoms that robbed him of a good portion of his season -- and the playoffs -- a year ago are gone, and the Ducks need that to be the case if they're going to make a push in the Western Conference. Hiller is one of the best goalies in the league and if he's 100 percent healthy can be a difference maker for Anaheim.

31. Heatley back on a top line: Coming off one of the worst goal-scoring seasons of his career Dany Heatley gets a fresh start in Minnesota, and he's going to be relied on to be a top goal-scoring option for the Wild. Was last year the start of a decline in Heatley's career, or does he return to the 40-goal form we're used to seeing?

32. Will Detroit's defense be good enough? The Red Wings defense has declined a bit in recent years, and this year they're looking to replace Brian Rafalski following his retirement. Nicklas Lidstrom still scores like a champ, but he's not getting any younger back there.

33. Is Matt Cooke a changed man? Penguins agitator Matt Cooke claims he's a changed man following a season that saw him earn two suspensions, including a 17-game ban following a hit on Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. It's one thing to say it, but we have to see it.

34. Varlamov gets another shot: The Avalanche need the Semyon Varlamov gamble to work out, not just because they desperately need an upgrade in net, owning the worst save percentage in the league last season, but also because their first-round pick in 2012 -- perhaps a very, very high selection -- now belongs to the Washington Capitals as a result of the trade that brought him to Colorado.  

35. Benn will star for the Stars: The Dallas Stars have done a nice job developing forwards in recent years, and Jamie Benn looks like he's ready to become a 30-goal scorer.

36. Bryzgalov will be missed in Phoenix: The Coyotes will struggle to return to the playoffs for a third consecutive year as they try to replace Ilya Bryzgalov with Mike Smith and Jason LaBarbera. Smith is familiar with coach Dave Tippett, but Bryzgalov was a big part of their success the past two years and he won't be easy to replace.

37. The Blue Jackets will be more entertaining: Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski fill huge needs and Ryan Johansen can be a contender for the Calder Trophy. The playoffs are a real possibility in Columbus, and even if the Jackets fail to qualify, they will at least be a more interesting team to watch this year.

38. Patrick Kane at center: Simply put, how long will this experiment last?

39. Vokoun/Neuvirth/Holtby trio of goaltenders in Washington: An experienced veteran signed for way below his market value and two extremely talented youngsters. Michal Neuvirth still thinks the job is his, and when combined with his talent that level of determination has to be an exciting prospect for the Capitals. Vokoun, though, is no slouch and has been one of the best goaltenders in the league the past few years playing on one of the league's worst teams.

40. Malkin's return to the top of the scoring race: For most players, simply averaging a point-per-game is a success. For a player with Malkin's ability it's considered a disappointment. This season he looks poised to return to the top of the NHL's scoring race and contend for the Art Ross Trophy. Speaking of which...

Sedins

41. Will somebody other than the Sedin's win the scoring title? The past two years two different players from the same family have won the NHL's scoring title. Is it a three-peat for the Sedin twins?

42. Jaromir Jagr: Does he have anything left? The summer of Jagr was certainly interesting, especially if you were following the #jagrwatch on Twitter, but how much does the 39-year-old forward have left in the tank? Philadelphia might need a lot.

43. How big of an issue is Markov's knee? Andrei Markov is still Montreal's best defenseman and he's still fighting through some problems with the knee injuries that have plagued him over the past two years. After losing Wisniewski and Roman Hamrlik the Canadiens need him to be healthy.

44. Will Detroit need an upgrade on Jimmy Howard? The Red Wings say they're happy with their goaltending situation, but twice in the past seven months they've tried to add a veteran goaltender, signing Evgeni Nabokov last season only to lose him on waivers before he could report to the team, and making a run at Tomas Vokoun this summer. That's not a coincidence.

45. Center of attention in Toronto: The Maple Leafs have been searching for a true No. 1 center for quite some time, and after missing out on Brad Richards over the summer went with Tim Connolly on a two-year deal. The good news is he's not a bad player, but the bad news is he's constantly injured. Matthew Lombardi is in the mix if he can overcome his concussion problem, but after that it's a relatively thin group. Heck, even with them it's a thin group.

46. Edmonton's defense: The Oilers have loads of potential at the forward positions but their defense is a mess after Ryan Whitney. Who will step up on their blue line?

47. How many games for DiPietro? Like the Oilers the Islanders hope rests with their collection of forwards while serious questions about their defense and goaltending will haunt them all year. For the Islanders the yearly question (as it will be through 2020) is how many games will the oft-injured Rick DiPietro be in the lineup?

48. Bouwmeester: big money, little offense in Calgary: When the Flames gave Jay Bouwmeester over $6 million per year three years ago they were probably expecting way more offense than this. He's averaged just around 27 points per season since signing with Calgary after averaging over 40 during his finals three seasons with Florida, primarily because his goal-scoring ability has suddenly disappeared. Sixty-eight defenseman recorded more points than his 24 last season.

49. Parise's return: Not only his return to the lineup for the full-season, but also his return to being one of the top left wings in the NHL, will go a long way toward helping the Devils in their effort return to the playoffs after a disappointing season a year ago. In a contract year, Parise needs a big season on a personal level to strike it rich next summer.

50. How many 50-goal scorers will we see? During the 2010-11 season we saw one 50-goal scorer (Perry), down from the three we had the previous season. The preseason favorites have to be Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos, and Crosby might be able to get into that mix if he returns to action early enough.

Photos: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: September 21, 2011 12:05 pm
Edited on: September 21, 2011 12:11 pm
 

Step-back players: Can Columbus' Wiz keep it up?

By Brian Stubits

We see it over and over again in sports. Player has a career year, player gets a fat new contract with new team, said player fails to live up to the new deal.

After an offseason of numerous exorbitant contracts, this description will likely apply to plenty of players this upcoming year. That includes the guy who received the biggest bounty on the first day of free agency, James Wisniewski.

Signed by the Columbus Blue Jackets for a robust six-year, $33 million, Wisniewski is the second-highest paid player on an annual basis on a team that includes Rick Nash and Jeff Carter. That's a lot of coin for a player who has one season on his resume worthy of such. In his defense it was last season, so he picked a good time for his best season.

But surely you can see the red flags here. Wisniewski would appear to be a prime target for a step-back season. Now it's possible that last season was the Wiz actually stepping into his prime, after all he is 27 years old now, the magical age in all sports. But when a guy scores 21 more points in a season higher than his previous career high, it is only fair to wonder if it can be repeated. Such a jump indicates likelihood to regress to the mean a little bit.

Throw in the fact that Wisniewski is coming to a new environment, joining players he has never played with before and in an organization that has not had much success to talk about and you have the making for much quieter year.

What could help Wisniewski replicate his 51 points from a season ago with the Canadiens would be getting a lot of ice time, especially on the power play, with Rick Nash and Jeff Carter. Depending on how quickly they jell up front could impact Wisniewski's play and numbers. He'll certainly share the ice with the two high- scoring forwards a bit, but the more (probably) the better.

Now is as good a time as any to explain the rationale here, because it always gets misunderstood. This is no way to say that Wisniewski or any of the other players below will have bad years. That isn't the object one bit. It's simply players who might see a regression. Think of it this way: If a player is great and he regresses, he can still be very good. That fit Alexander Ovechkin last season, despite still being one of the best players in the league, it can't be argued he didn't have as strong a season last year. Now, on to the ...

Step-back candidates

Michael Grabner/Taylor Hall/Logan Couture/Jeff Skinner/Tyler Seguin/Brad Marchand: We're just throwing all of last season's top rookies into one category and labeling this one the "sophomore slump" group. Chances are one of them won't continue to blossom or match their rookie outputs. If I had to pick one, it would be Grabner of the Islanders.

Teemu Selanne, Ducks: The guy is a wonder, recording more than a point per game last season with the Ducks at 40 years old. But his offseason knee surgery and subsequent wait to see if he'd be ready to go (and advanced age) would seem to indicate a player who doesn't seem likely to keep up his pace. Just playing the odds on this one. Then again, we are talking about Selanne here.


Danny Briere, Flyers: Somebody is likely going to suffer a setback in Philadelphia with the absence of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, and Briere would be my best guess. He posted 34 goals and 34 assists last season, his highest point total in since 2007-08 and he's no spring chicken any more as he will turn 34 years old on the Flyers' opening day.


Christian Ehrhoff, Sabres: He is coming off a season where he posted 14 goals and 36 assists along with a plus-19. That in and of itself is tough to repeat. My colleague Adam Gretz wrote about the prospect of replacing Ehrhoff in Vancouver, noting that he was a bit protected. Now he will still be surrounded by a very good team in Buffalo, but it's looking like he will be paired with Jordan Leopold, the second defensive pairing behind Tyler Myers and Robyn Regehr. It's going to be very tough to replicate his excellent last two seasons.


Michal Neuvirth, Capitals: This is the gamble the Caps are taking by bringing in Tomas Vokoun. Neuvirth was very solid last season, posting a 27-12-4 record with a 2.45 GAA and .914 save percentage. They are risking him taking a step back in his growth as a player by relegating him to backup minutes, not to mention the possibility of a hit to the psyche of bringing in another goaltender and naming him the starter soon after the acquisition.


Sean Bergenheim, Panthers: He had the best season of his career with the Lightning a season ago, scoring 14 goals and 15 assists through 80 regular-season games. Where he drew plenty of attention for himself, though, was in the playoffs when he had nine goals for the Bolts. Coming up with the Islanders there had been plenty of hope and potential for Bergenheim, so perhaps he's just starting to break out. I'm expecting a point total in the low 20s, like his numbers in the days on the Island.


NHL season preview schedule
Wed., Sept. 21: Step-back players Tues., Sept. 27: Atlantic Division
Thur., Sept. 22: Breakout players Wed., Sept. 28: Central Division
Fri., Sept. 23: Southeast Division Thur. Sept. 29: Northeast Division
Mon., Sept. 26: Pacific Division Fri., Sept. 30: Northwest Division

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 9, 2011 4:22 pm
 

Caps goalie Neuvirth's mask depicts home, D.C.

By Brian Stubits

Continuing in what has become a summer tradition of revealing the goaltender masks for the upcoming season, we present to you the cage that Capitals goaltender Michael Neuvirth will sport this season.

There is no better way in hockey for a player to show their identity and character than a goalie and his mask. And I must admit, this is one of my favorites.

On one half of the mask is a tribute to his home nation, the Czech Republic that includes a lion with a crown, something that be seen on the nation's soccer emblem among other places, and a castle from his hometown, a staple on all of his masks.

The other side represents the city he plays in, with an image of the Capitol and the Washington Monument with Stars and an eagle. Lucky for him, both the USA and the Czech Republic have red, white and blue as their colors.

On the top is the Capitals eagle that appears on the team logo and the bottom says "Neuvy," his nickname.

Here's a little more on the design process from NBC Washington:

“The goalies tell me what kind of style they want, if they want old school, or retro, or top modern,” explained David Gunnarsson, who designed all of the Caps' masks last season. "After the goalie and I have talked, I do some research and thinking and sketching. I present a design idea for the goalie and then I start to paint. It’s a very fun process."

To see more of Gunnarsson's designs, check this link.

Photo: NBC Washington

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Posted on: August 25, 2011 7:08 pm
Edited on: August 25, 2011 7:21 pm
 

Can Neuvirth push Vokoun for starting job?

NeuvirthBy: Adam Gretz

Not that we know these things before even one game is played during the 2011-12 season, but the Washington Capitals addition of free agent goaltender Tomas Vokoun on a one-year, $1.5 million contract has the potential to be one of the best deals of the summer.

For the past four years he's been the proverbial big fish in the small pond, quietly going about his business as the best player -- and one of the best goalies in the NHL -- on one of the worst teams in the league. He's finished in the top-10 in save percentage in each of the past five seasons, including four finishes in the top-five, all while usually facing over 32 shots per game.

His addition was just one part of a busy summer of activity for the Capitals, which included the additions of forwards Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer, defenseman Roman Hamrlik, as well as the trade of one of their young goalies, Semyon Varlamov, to the Colorado Avalanche for a future first-round pick. It's already been assumed that Vokoun will be the Capitals' starting goaltender when the season begins, which means last year's No. 1, Michal Neuvirth, will be pushed to backup duty. Still, that's not stopping him from enterinng camp with the intentiions of taking back his starting gig, as he told Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post on Thursday.

From the Post:
Coach Bruce Boudreau has said he anticipates that Vokoun will start the season as the Capitals’ No. 1 option in net. But Neuvirth said Thursday that he's conceding nothing.

“Tomas might be one of the top three goalies in the league,” Neuvirth said. “So it's a big opportunity for me to show I can be as good as this guy or even better. Obviously, I want to play the most games and I still want to be the number one goalie.”

Reminded of Boudreau's comments, Neuvirth fired back, “It's still summer. We still have three weeks until training camp. Whatever Bruce is saying, it doesn't bother me. We'll see what happens in training camp. Obviously, Tomas is a great goalie and I respect him.”
Neuvirth is certainly right about one thing: it is still summer and, at this point, starting jobs are most certainly still up for grabs, but it's going to be difficult for him to reclaim his No. 1 job this season, if that even matters.

Whether he has the "No. 1" role or not, Neuvirth is still going to get his share of playing time this season (even if it's a decrease from last season), and it's important to keep in mind that he's still only 23 years old and represents the future of the position in Washington (and don't forget, the Capitals still have Braden Holtby in the system as well).

If there's a concern for Vokoun at this point it could probably go back to the part about him playing the past four seasons on one of the worst teams in the NHL and not having to deal with the pressures of postseason hockey. Despite playing 12 years in the NHL with the Predators and Panthers, the 35-year-old Vokoun has appeared in just 11 playoff games. Though, it's also worth pointing out that he's played well in those games -- all with the Predators -- recording a .922 save percentage.

A little competition at this point in his career shouldn't hurt Neuvirth, and there's not a team in the league that is going to worry about having too many good goaltenders that can start for them, especially when they're only taking up a combined $2.6 million salary cap space.

Photo: Getty Images

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