Michal Neuvirth’s working to get back in the game, and he’s skating and looking better by the day. But the way Braden Holtby played in Games 1 and 2 for the Washington Capitals, it’s hard to imagine Neuvirth seeing the net anytime soon.
This is Holtby’s crease, at least according to coach Dale Hunter. Asked if he would ride the hot goaltender, he started to say “It’s not even …” before trailing off.
“Yeah. Holtsy’s our goalie and it’s going to be a battle,” Hunter said.
Quite a vote of confidence, even if it was plenty obvious by Holtby’s performance.
As good as Tim Thomas has been, Holtby has been better. Hunter was prompted with the possibility of a healthy Neuvirth and answered about Holtby and Thomas.
“He’s been good for us. Both goaltenders,” the coach said. “You just tell by the scores, they’ve been making big saves. It’s one of these battles; it’s playoff hockey, and that’s the way playoffs should be.”
Through two games, the 22-year-old leads all goalies in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in goals-against average (0.83) and save percentage (.973).
“He’s been outstanding both games. He came in, he’s playing like a veteran,” forward Matt Hendricks said. “It’s comforting for us to see as players and just to see how comfortable he is back there: Playing the puck, making the saves, talking to the defensemen. … He’s been great.”
Holtby isn’t high on his game, at least publicly. Hype may be building up around him, but he talked about this being a long series and the need for improvement.
“My game really didn’t change too much. It was basically the way we played, the way the game was played as a whole as to why I was successful,” he said. “I want to work on some things; I want to be better and to get better throughout the series. Right now all the focus is on Game 3.”