Washington Capitals coach Dale Hunter won’t come out and say it, but he is looking for one of his three goaltenders to step up and identify himself as the starting goalie who will carry the Capitals into the playoffs and beyond. There are three options: Tomas Vokoun, Michal Neuvirth, and Braden Holtby.
Hunter said that it’s one of those things where you see who is hot at the right time. According to him, the team is already in the playoffs, fighting each and every night to stay in the eighth and final playoff position in the Eastern Conference. Right now, the Capitals are tied with the Buffalo Sabres at 80 points, and the Capitals hold the tie-breaker with more regulation and overtime wins than the Sabres.
Tomas Vokoun is almost guaranteed out, still suffering from a groin injury that he tried to return too soon from. That leaves Hunter with two options. The 22-year-old Holtby, or the 23-year-old Neuvirth.
Holtby has spent the majority of the year in Hershey with the Capitals AHL affiliate the Hershey Bears. However, Holtby is coming off of a 30-save effort in Monday night’s 5-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings, which was his first NHL win in two starts this season. Along with that, Holtby was the first off of the ice at practice this morning, almost guaranteeing him the start for tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
As for Neuvirth, he suffered a 5-2 loss in Sunday night’s game in Chicago, and has allowed four or more goals in his last three games. With that average, Holtby looks like the sure choice to get the nod in net. However, I expect Neuvirth to be the starting goalie down the line if Holtby has one bad outing.
All three potential goalies have proven themselves this year, as well as last year and could all be the starting goalie if the Capitals make it to the playoffs. However, they first have to make it and the next step towards the playoffs is tonight, against the Flyers.