The Washington Capitals goaltender-go-round has implication far beyond the playoff race.
With veteran Tomas Vokoun still hobbled by a groin muscle strain, prospect Braden Holtby gets to start a key game against the Buffalo Sabres. He is 2-0-1 with a .955 save percentage and a 1.29 goals-against average during his latest recall.
“Pretty excited for it,” Holtby told the Washington Post. “It’s a big game but at the same time, it’s just another one. It counts as two points just the same as all the others do. Got to go into it with that mindset but there will be a little extra motivation to have the team going and get a win.”
If Holtby wins, odds are he will continue to start. That is the way coach Dale Hunter operates.
And if Holtby keeps starting, the impact could extend to future seasons:
- Holtby, 22, has a chance to surpass Michal Neuvirth as the Next One in goal for the Capitals. In his limited exposure to the NHL, he has flashed star qualities. “He’s come up here and has played well. It’s a big game for him,” Hunter told reporters. “Going into Detroit, going into Philly, those are tough situations. He’s been good under pressure; he’s always been good under pressure, people tell me. He’s a kid that wants to rise to the occasion.”
- Vokoun signed a one-year deal as a free agent hoping to bolster his value for his next contract. At times he has looked worthy of a big-dollar commitment. But at times Vokoun has struggled – and when the Caps needed him the most this season, he pulled up lame.
- If the Capitals believe Holtby and Neuvirth can be a low-cost goaltending answer for next season and beyond, the team will be able to allocate more money toward keeping the core lineup intact.