This is a little odd, since Peters has been nails against Washington this year. Peters is 26-for-27 in only 60 minutes and is rocking a .963 and 1.00 GAA versus the Capitals in 2013. On top of this, he has a .938 save percentage and 1.67 GAA in his career versus Washington, which is a fair distance north of his overall stats.
While Ward is a world-class goaltender, Washington has taken him for a 2.54 GAA over his career and scored on him 78 times in 32 games. It doesn’t take NASA to figure this one out — Ward has a problem when facing the Capitals.
With Anton Khudobin still inexplicably absent from the lineup, Muller’s decision to put Ward in net is puzzling to say the least. In a post-morning skate interview Friday morning with Chip Alexander of the News & Observer, Muller explained this by saying he was “Just going on a gut feeling … showing we have confidence in [Ward].”
Coaches privilege being what it is, Muller is allowed to do this. Gut feelings have a habit of backfiring however, and with Carolina’s four badly-needed points behind Washington in the Metropolitan Division, a “gut feeling” is not a luxury Muller should be afforded.
As if there weren’t enough subplots brewing, Washington Post correspondent Katie Carrera reported via Twitter that the Capitals would be starting Philipp Grubauer instead of regular starter Braden Holtby, or the recently-recalled Michal Neuvirth. To be perfectly fair, Holtby hasn’t been all that hot lately. Additionally, the last time Holtby faced the Hurricanes, he got blown out to the tune of four goals against and an early exit.
There are really no secrets in the information age, and it is likely that Capitals head coach Adam Oates knew full well who was starting for Carolina and how practice went, since the internet is still around and is even available on phones now. Whether this call was a reaction to something he saw or heard or if it’s his own ‘gut feeling’ is between Oates and his players.
As much as it pains anyone with any sort of vested interest in Carolina, the outcome of Friday night will come down to Ward and how he performs. If he has shaken off the last few weeks and is back to being the $6.3 million goaltender he’s supposed to be, it will give the rest of the team the needed confidence to perform well. If he falters in the least, then Alex Ovechkin goes home with a puck labeled ‘No. 400′ and Muller’s gut owes fans an apology.