After 11 games, the Washington Capitals have been one of the most consistently inconsistent teams on a nightly basis.
They have horrible periods of play followed by brilliant ones, like on Saturday night when the Capitals poured seven unanswered goals in Calgary en route to a 7-2 win. Through all this, only one thing has remained steady: the goaltending of rookie Michal Neuvirth.
Semyon Varlamov, once believed to be the front runner for the job, has been plagued by injuries and, in his absence, Neuvirth has excelled.
Neuvirth's efforts have often masked the poor defensive play of the Capitals, and has been the team's most valuable player on most nights.
Since giving up four goals to Atlanta in the season opener, he has given up more than two goals on only one occasion, surrendering three in a 4-3 win over the Thrashers.
The Capitals have been able to maintain a relatively impressive 7-4 record largely due to the play of Neuvirth, and his statistics are indicative of his dominant play. He is in the top 10 among all goaltenders in save percentage and goals against average, not to mention the fact that he leads the league in wins with seven.
An even more convincing piece of evidence supporting Neuvirth's position as the starter is his success in the postseason. Each of the past two years, Neuvirth has ended the season by winning the Calder Cup with the Hershey Bears, earning postseason MVP honors in 2009.
While Varlamov is an extremely talented goaltender, his fragility (both physically, and at times, mentally) and the excellent play of Neuvirth seem to have made him a bit of an afterthought for the time being.
Neuvirth should be given the starting job until he falters, because he has earned it. He has kept the team in games night in and night out, and deserves the faith of the coaching staff.
While the rest of the team clearly has some work to do, it looks like they have found their masked man.