Goaltending hasn't been the only reason the Washington Capitals find themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, but it is certainly the team's biggest issue a dozen games into the new season.
Once again, George McPhee has opted to go with a tandem featuring two relatively unproven youngsters in net. Though both Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth have excelled at various points in the past, neither has earned the No. 1 job with their play through the first quarter of the 2012-13 NHL season.
With the first 12 games of the lockout-shortened campaign in the books, here is a breakdown of Washington's two goalies and their performances so far.
Holtby has put together two solid performances in wins over Philadelphia and Florida but has also given up goals by the bushel on other nights. His sparkling 27-save shutout outing against Florida was a reminder of how good the young goaltender can be when he is focused.
Despite Holtby's advantage in the wins department, Neuvirth has been every bit as effective as Holtby, primarily because he has been much, much better positionally.
Holtby is certainly bigger and flashier than his goaltending partner and may well have a bigger upside too.
But on a team desperately searching for some degree of stability in net, Neuvirth's consistency may help catapult him past Holtby on the Caps' depth chart.
So far, Holtby has had a tough time responding after being scored upon and has demonstrated a tendency to give up goals in bunches, which is an absolute momentum-killer.
Unfortunately, Neuvirth hasn't been much better.
Yeah, there was that standout performance the 24-year old Czech had during his lone win over Buffalo, but Neuvirth has given up too many bad goals, and his mental lapses have been a thorn in the team's side.
Heading into the final 36 games of the season, neither of the two has a goals against average below 3.00. With the team sitting at 3-8-1, one has to think McPhee will be on the hunt for a veteran goaltender before the Caps' season is officially on life support.
Both goalies have won a postseason series and have demonstrated the potential to be No. 1 guys, but until one of them goes on a lengthy winning streak, the starting job will be up for grabs.
For now, Oates will have to keep riding whichever goalie is hot at the moment, but there is no question that he'd love to hand the job over to someone sooner rather than later, especially if Washington finds its way back into the playoff hunt.
Neuvirth has a slight advantage as far as numbers go, but simply being marginally better statistically won't secure him the starting spot.
Holtby earned his stripes with his sparkling play against Boston and New York in the spring, so Neuvirth will have to outplay his younger counterpart by a wide margin in order to lay claim to the No. 1 job.