Michal Neuvirth handled the pressure of his first NHL postseason start very well. Now the Washington Capitals will find out how their 23-year-old rookie bounces back from his first NHL postseason defeat.
Neuvirth made 32 saves in a 3-2 loss Sunday to the New York Rangers in Game 3 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. He has still only allowed four goals in nearly 10 periods of postseason hockey, but the Capitals will need a strong performance from him again if the Rangers carry momentum from their victory into Game 4 on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
"He allowed the one goal [to Vinny Prospal]," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I thought the [Erik] Christensen goal there wasn't much he could do and the third goal, it bounces off two of our guys and into the net. They had 35 shots so I think he was pretty stellar for the most part. I think he's handling this tremendously. He's calm as a cucumber."
Part of "this" Boudreau was alluding to was how the Rangers have ratcheted up their presence in front of and around Neuvirth's crease. Christensen was called for goaltender interference near the end of the second period, but there were several other times when Neuvirth had bodies in his way or on top of him during post-whistle scrums.
How players can protect their young goalie in those circumstances is a bit tricky.
"It is a double-edge sword, because if we start doing something we're going to start getting retaliation penalties, which is what you tell the guys not to do," Boudreau said. "You're hoping that they're being called. If it is not called, there is not much you can do without getting involved in 4-on-4 situations and taking guys out.
"Prospal went in there. [Sean] Avery fell into him. [Brandon] Prust went into him on purpose and wasn't called. They're doing all of that stuff to try and get him off his game, but the good thing about Michal is it doesn't seem to effect him. It is there and we have to protect the goalies -- both the team and the officials."