Dale Hunter appears to like the deception that comes with not announcing his starting goaltender. Again Monday he called his goalie for Tuesday night’s showdown with the Buffalo Sabres something everyone will learn at game time.
“It’s one of those decisions where it’s always a tough decision with good goalies,” the Washington Capitals’ coach said. “We’re blessed with three, so we’ll see at game time tomorrow.”
It really shouldn’t be a surprise. There’s no reason why Braden Holtby won’t start in the next biggest game of the season for the Caps. The affable and aggressive 22-year-old is 2-0-1 with a 1.29 goals-against average and .955 save percentage in his past three starts and just shut out the Minnesota Wild.
Michal Neuvirth is healthy, Tomas Vokoun is getting there, but both will likely have to wait their turn.
“I think Hunts just looks at who’s going right now you can see it by the streaks that our goalies have had. Vokey played five or six games before he got injured, Neuvy was playing well and now it’s Holtby’s turn and he’s playing well right now,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “There’s no reason to change goalies or look at somebody else because you’ve got to ride who’s hot.”
The idea of a goaltending controversy around these parts might have to wait another game or two, but Holtby looks like the man for at least Tuesday. He said he hadn’t been given any indication about starting against the Sabres.
But he knows full well how important a game this is, and thrives on pressure situations.
“Yeah, it’s pretty big. It’s a big game for our team to keep even with Buffalo,” he said. “Every game right now is confidence, we’re winning. It’s a big game, but at the same time it’s in the past now and the focus is on the next one.”
“Game-to-game” is how Hunter described his goaltender philosophy, too. Based on Holtby’s 28-save shutout Sunday, it’s a no-brainer.
And if the Caps are treating this as “playoff hockey,” Holtby deserves this start.
“When you get into the playoffs a lot of it has to do with how your goaltending is and how you play around him,” Brouwer said. “If we have confidence in him that he’s going to make all the saves that we need him to make than let him go, let him run with it.”