Washington Capitals: Who Will Take the Reins in Net for the Caps?
I'll be honest, it's hard to write about hockey right now.
It's hard to get excited about rocking the red and Ovechkin bouncing back and who we should have traded and whether or not a 16-ounce Anheuser-Busch product will finally hit double digits at the Verizon Center.
It's hard to forget the fact that the 2012-13 season is never going to happen because the owners decided seven years is WAY too long to go without digging rusty hooks into the NHLPA.
But we must keep our morale up. And to do that, we must engage in endless discussion and speculation as if there were a season.
So let's instead talk about how the Capitals are totally not screwed at the goalie position, despite somehow finding themselves in a situation where they have two wet-behind-the-ears netminders after years of frittering around with wily veterans. And a Russian who was supposedly the future between the Capitals' pipes.
Now, after all of that foofaraw, we are left with Czech Michal Neuvirth and Canadian Braden Holtby to choose from—and I'm actually happy about it. But the question remains: Who will take the reins in net? Is it the promising youngster? Or the promising...slightly less youngster?
Last year, the goalie situation was truly up in the air. The Capitals had shipped out its supposed future in Semyon Varlamov and brought in a one-year rental in Tomas Vokoun who most people realized wasn't sticking around beyond 2011-12—an assumption that turned out to be 100 percent accurate.
So in the back of everyone's minds throughout that season was that uncomfortable question: What the heck are we going to do in 2012-13?
Thankfully, the 2012 playoffs have largely answered that question, at least in my mind. In 14 games, Braden Holtby shut down some of the best offenses in the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers, allowing just 1.95 goals per game—a .935 save percentage—and pretty much being the reason the Capitals were even competitive during that sad, sad playoff "run."
Holtby or Neuvirth?
But don't think his netminding prowess is limited to that small sample size. Holtby has also played 21 regular season games, and has been equally fantastic, posting a .929 save percentage. That's 35 games—almost half an entire regular season—of being statistically one of the best goalkeepers in the NHL. He's no joke.
And then there's Michal Neuvirth. In truth, he'll get his chance. He'll probably be the starter at first. But Coach Adam Oates will be closely watching, and Neuvirth will start to feel Holtby breathing down his neck if he doesn't pick it up.
His numbers so far in his career are just, well, meh. In 108 games, he's managed a save percentage of .909 and goals allowed average of 2.65. Neither of those numbers would have even cracked the top 30 among NHL goaltenders last year.
But there's certainly time to turn it around. The next time the Caps hit the ice, these two will be duking it out for that starting job. It will be fun to watch, but in the end, I'd place a sizable wager on the man from Alberta landing the knockout blow.
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