Throughout the 2013-14 season, the Washington Capitals have been one of the most inconsistent and frustrating team’s in the NHL as they have won or lost three straight games a total of eight times (four times each). Just as one would expect with this type of play, the Capitals have a very average 22-17-8 record and sit eighth in the Eastern Conference.
The root of this inconsistency always comes back to the position of goalie which has been a roller coaster for the organization for the entire season. Currently Washington has three guys – Philipp Grubauer, Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby – who honestly believe that they should be starting, and at one time or another all of them have been given an opportunity to start games consistently. After letting the situation simmer for over half of the season, it is clear that Capitals head coach Adam Oates and general manager George McPhee need to make a decision — and quickly.
In the case of Grubauer it is clear that he is the guy who is most likely to be a starter moving forward, and he has been absolutely brilliant since coming up to Washington at the beginning of December. Since being called up he has started 12 out of the Capitals’ 20 games, compiling a 6-2-5 record with a 2.06 GAA and .936 save percentage. Clearly these numbers are great and are indicative of a youngster who is both confident and consistent in between the pipes. If anyone is going to get the boot out of town it surely will not be Grubauer.
When the decision over who makes the cut as the second goaltender in Washington is brought to a fight between Neuvirth or Holtby, there is no doubting the final decision likely will not be based on skill and rather which guy is content to fight to earn the starting spot.
When it comes to Neuvirth there is no doubting that he would accept the first ticket out of Washington, but it appears that Oates is trying to change his mind by offering recent game time. After not playing from Nov. 22 to Jan. 10, Neuvirth has started two out of the Capitals’ last four games and his persistent comments about leaving the organization have subsided. While he may want to be a starter, it wouldn’t make sense for the Capitals to move him considering he is signed for a very affordable $2.5 million next season and will consistently push Grubauer to stay on top form.
Meanwhile, the current season has seen Holtby drop from undoubted starter and personal Oates favorite for the first two and a half months of the season to an afterthought. The 24-year-old’s confidence is shot to tatters currently, and although his value would be much less today than ever before, a change of scenery would do him well.
Moving Holtby out of town and finally settling on Neuvirth and Grubauer at the goalie position would not only be beneficial for the three goaltenders but the Capitals organization as a whole. Going week to week without a firm one-two punch has surely played a big part in the team’s inconsistency, and finally crossing out this issue will surely bring a sense of stability to the team and send them into a strong run of form.