Unlike October 2011, when Tomas Vokoun was surprised to learn he wasn’t starting the Washington Capitals’ season opener, there won’t be a shock for Saturday night. Braden Holtby goes into the season as the No. 1 goaltender, and coach Adam Oates confirmed Friday that he will start at the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Vokoun’s immortal words when telling reporters that Michal Neuvirth was starting last season was that he wasn’t nervous about his Caps debut because he wasn’t playing. Holtby isn’t nervous, either.
“I’ve already been playing for 25 games. It seems like almost a call-up at this time,” Holtby said Thursday. “As far as the season opener or whatnot, it’s just another game, no matter what time of year it is.”
Holtby went 12-12-1 with a 2.14 goals-against average and .932 save percentage for the Hershey Bears in the American Hockey League during the NHL lockout. Neuvirth played in the Czech Republic and put up similarly impressive numbers.
“It’s definitely a benefit that I feel like I’m in better shape and I’ve been getting prepared for games for a while now,” Holtby said. “That only goes so far. We have a lot of work to do, I have a lot of work to do in order to be prepared to play on Saturday.”
Holtby has been asked repeatedly about being the No. 1 goalie and has said repeatedly he doesn’t care about that distinction.
“All I’m really expecting is trying to win games, giving our team a chance,” he said. “As many games as I play, that’s my goal. As far as starter, backup, that’s just a title. You’ve got to play without a title in order to be successful.”