WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 31: Michal Neuvirth #30 of the Washington Capitals makes a save against the Montreal Canadiens at the Verizon Center on March 31, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
The Washington Capitals' goaltending position - much like the Washington Redskins' quarterback position - has not been solidified in years. Since the Caps acquired Cristobal Huet at the 2008 NHL trade deadline, effectively ending Olaf Kolzig's decade-long run as the No. 1 goalie, they have used Huet, Brent Johnson, Jose Theodore, Semyon Varlamov, Michal Neuvirth, Braden Holtby and Tomas Vokoun.
When Vokoun arrived last summer from the Florida Panthers, he was essentially handed the No. 1 position as he likely should have been, considering his veteran status and steadiness in goal for the hapless Panthers. Yet, he never really seized the job away from either Neuvirth or Holtby. According to CSN Washington's Chuck Gormley, he might not have a chance to win it back.
Gormley reported Sunday that the strained groin muscle that Vokoun has now reaggravated twice is serious enough to keep him off the ice for the rest of the season.
Vokoun, who had already missed much of the last month with the groin injury, left Thursday's 3-2 shootout victory over the Boston Bruins when his groin flared up on him late in the first period. He did not dress Saturday in Washington's 3-2 shootout victory over the Montreal Canadiens.
With Vokoun out, Neuvirth has recently stepped up in his place. He has won four of his last six starts, including two straight Thursday (in relief of Vokoun) and Saturday and his confidence seems to be at its peak.
Neuvirth understands what it takes to carry the load in the postseason; he started all nine games for the Caps last season in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals and Semifinals and won back-to-back Calder Cup championships with the AHL Hershey Bears before settled in D.C. full-time. While the plan in October might have been for Vokoun to be the No. 1 guy, Neuvirth is fully capable of doing that.
Head coach Dale Hunter is fond of the "ride the hot hand" mentality, which has a simple premise: "win and you're in." Considering the Caps' inconsistent season, Hunter has not settled on one No. 1 with three games remaining in the regular season. Braden Holtby is still with the Caps and has also proven to be effective, but for now, it is out with the old and in with the Neuvirth.
Adam Vingan is co-founder and editor of Kings Of Leonsis, a Caps-centric blog, and is the Capitals Editor for SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter @Adam_KOL and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.