For the first time in his nine-year career, Michal Neuvirth knows when he gets home at night after a game, there will be someone waiting for him with a smile.
Win or lose, it doesn’t matter to Neuvirth, or especially to his one-month-old daughter, Emily Gudasová Carolina.
“When you come home, there’s a baby waiting and it's such an amazing feeling that someone is waiting for you at home,” Neuvirth said after Tuesday's 5-1 win over Florida. “Last year, I was mostly here by myself, so I definitely like it better having a family with me now.”
Family now consists of his newborn daughter, his fiancee Karolína Gudasová and uncle Radko Gudas, Gudasová’s older brother and Neuvirth’s Flyers teammate.
To those of us on the outside, the responsibility of fatherhood seemingly has altered Neuvirth’s disposition. He smiles more, cracks a few jokes and elaborates just a little more with his answers to the media. Perhaps, he can tolerate us because there’s a deeper purpose and a sense of providing that comes with fatherhood.
“It’s an amazing feeling being a dad,” Neuvirth said. “For me, I just have another motivation to play for my family now.”
Of course, it also helps I’ve yet to see Neuvirth yawn or show up to practice with bags under his eyes. He has escaped any late-night drama with an eight-day road trip to start the season, and for now, he apparently has a rare lifetime pass for any early morning feedings.
“I have an amazing fiancee. She takes care of her (Emily) as much as she needs to,” Neuvirth said. “I usually put her to bed at 10-10:30. During the night, Karolina goes and feeds her in the living room, and I’m a deep sleeper, so she doesn’t wake me up.”
As Gudasová has kept an eye on the cradle, Neuvirth has secured the crease. He’s allowed three goals in his two starts this season with a .956 save percentage, which has initiated the debate for more playing time.
Interestingly, adapting to a new addition is something Neuvirth has also discussed with teammate and fellow netminder, Brian Elliott, who went through a similar set of circumstances with his son, Owen, last season in Calgary. Elliott called that first month with the Flames “a huge adjustment” and his October numbers reflected that.
Six games into the season, Neuvirth apparently has it all figured out.
Of course, a good night’s sleep has a way of bringing clarity to the situation.