Grading Washington Capitals' Goaltenders in the 2013-14 Season

Robert WoodCorrespondent INovember 11, 2013

Grading Washington Capitals' Goaltenders in the 2013-14 Season

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    Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

    Team goaltending is an important part of success in the NHL. It is even celebrated with its own award. 

    According to NHL.com, "the William M. Jennings Trophy is an annual award given to the goalkeeper(s) having played a minimum of 25 games for the team with the fewest goals scored against it. Winners are selected based on regular-season play." 

    The Washington Capitals have not won the award since 1983-84. Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth may not break that streak this season, but their collective performance will be judged nonetheless. 

    With that in mind, here are grades for the Washington Capitals' goaltenders as a unit. Each slide will grade the Capitals' goaltending performance in a specific statistical category, such as goals-against average, save percentage and special teams. 

     

    Note: All statistics updated through Nov. 10 courtesy of NHL.com unless noted otherwise. 

1. Goals-Against Average

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    As a team, the Capitals have an average goals against per game of 2.83, ranking 20th in the league. 

    From another perspective, the 48 goals against that Washington had allowed through Nov. 9 was above the league average of 46, according to Hockey-Reference.com. 

    Individually, Braden Holtby ranks 29th in the NHL with a 2.71 goals-against average, and Michal Neuvirth ranks 32nd at 2.78. 

    GRADE: C-

2. Save Percentage

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    Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    The Capitals' goalies have been slightly better when it comes to save percentage. Unfortunately, there is no statistic for team save percentage. We will have to look at the data on an individual basis. 

    Braden Holtby ranks 13th in the NHL with a save percentage of .922, having made 402 of 436 saves. 

    Michal Neuvirth ranks 24th in the NHL with a .913 save percentage, posting 168 saves on 184 shots. 

    Together, the two have stopped 570 of 620 shots for a save percentage of .919. 

    GRADE: C

3. Shutouts

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    Nothing pleases a goaltender and his defense like a clean sheet. 

    So far, the Capitals have only one, authored by Braden Holtby Nov. 1 against the Philadelphia Flyers

    This total is below average. Thus far, 20 different teams have posted at least one shutout and 13 have posted more than one. 

    Plus, the Capitals should realistically have three shutouts on the season. Before his first clean sheet of the campaign, Holtby lost a shutout in the last five minutes of a game on two separate occasions. 

    GRADE: C-

4. Special Teams

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    Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Spor

    The most important penalty-killer on the ice is the goalie. If he doesn't do his job, then all that hard work by the penalty-killers in front of him will go for naught. 

    Washington's goalies have done their job on special teams this season. They have allowed only eight power-play goals against, fifth in the league in that category. As a result, Washington ranks second in the league in total penalty-kill percentage at 88.7 percent. 

    But there is another side to special teams for goalies, as netminders play a part in their team's power play as well. The Capitals could use a little work in that department, as they have allowed two short-handed goals against (26th in the league). 

    GRADE: A-

5. Overtime and Shootouts

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    Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    In today's NHL, overtime and shootouts are of paramount importance. A single solitary point lost in overtime or the shootout could not only cost a team its playoff positioning, it could cost a team its spot in the playoffs altogether. 

    Through 18 games, Washington's goalies have been very good in both overtime and the shootout. 

    In five games that have reached overtime, Washington has yet to allow a goal in the extra frame. The team has yet to score a goal in overtime, as well. 

    In shootouts, the Caps have faced the fifth-most shots against at 15 and have allowed the sixth-most goals against with six. Their shootout save percentage of .600 is 19th best in the league. 

    These numbers are average, but they are deceiving. Half of the six shootout goals against occurred in the same game. On Oct. 22, Washington beat Winnipeg 4-3 in the sixth round of the shootout in a contest that saw six consecutive shooters from both teams convert their shootout attempts. This means that Washington goaltenders have allowed only three shootout goals against in the four other games that went to a shootout and blanked their shootout opponents in two of those games. That's impressive. 

    All told, Washington is tied for the league lead in shootout wins with four and has suffered only one shootout loss

    The only problem with the Capitals' reliance on shootout success is that the team has only five regulation and overtime wins (ROWs), which the NHL uses as a tiebreaker. That is the fewest ROWs of any of the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference standings by a wide margin. This deficiency could cause an issue come playoff time, but it certainly isn't the fault of the goalies. 

    GRADE: A