Braden Holtby will get his second straight start in goal when the Washington Capitals host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday afternoon. Holtby made 29 saves on 31 shots in Friday night’s victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.
“He played solid and he won,” coach Adam Oates said. “Ride a hot goalie.”
Holtby has never faced the Penguins in his NHL career, though he has watched from the bench. The 22-year-old has no particular expectation for what it will be like in this kind of rivalry game at Verizon Center on Super Bowl Sunday.
“Nah, it’s just another game. I don’t really put too much emphasis on rivalries and whatnot,” Holtby said. “Once you start thinking about those things is when you get wrapped up in the game and forget what we have to prepare for. Right now it’s early on in the season, we’re battling to get back to where we want to get to and tomorrow we have to focus on the game, not the opponent.”
Holtby beat the Flyers, so it’s not crazy that he’s getting the nod against Pittsburgh. But the Caps’ other goaltender, Michal Neuvirth, has some history with Penguins coach Dan Bylsma that he has been able to take advantage of.
Bylsma, on HBO’s “24/7” program in 2010, called Neuvirth’s glove “shaky.” Since then, Neuvirth is 2-0-1 against the Penguins with a 1.32 goals-against average, .954 save percentage and two shutouts.
Oates said recently sometimes he looks at a goaltender’s career performance. But he has also made it clear he will ride the hot hand, which, for the moment, is Holtby.
Oates is “not really that concerned” that Holtby has never faced the Penguins. And Holtby isn’t worried about the 12:30 p.m. start.
“I don’t think any time of the day is bad if you’re used to it,” he said. “It’s just the difference in your routine and whatnot, it has to change a bit, but you get used to it. If you don’t worry about it and not think about that it’s a different game, it won’t affect you.”
Holtby will have two starts in three days after not playing 10 days prior to the Flyers game.
“It’s just the way it goes sometimes,” Holtby said. “We played very well [Friday] and I happened to be the beneficiary of that. I get the opportunity to play again, and my job is to give us a chance to win against Pittsburgh.”
Tomas Vokoun will start for the Penguins, Bylsma said Saturday. Vokoun spent a tumultuous year with the Caps before his rights were traded to Pittsburgh for a seventh-round pick.
“We all know what happened,” Vokoun said the day he was traded. “We can’t control injury. I enjoy my time up there. When I talk to [general manager George McPhee], George said even if my year went really well, then they wouldn’t probably be able to squeeze me under the cap. The way it went, I kind of figure they’re gonna go with the young kids. It’s normal. It’s business, right?”
Vokoun showed a tendency to crush his former team last year. He faced the Florida Panthers three times, posted two shutouts and won all three games.
During his first two seasons with the Panthers, Vokoun also shut out the Nashville Predators, the team he played for the previous eight years.