“I think either way. I see it here, I saw it in Boston. Having two really good goaltenders, it’s always nice,” forward Marco Sturm said. “But either way, it’s totally fine - as long as you believe in those goalies.”
Seeing teams like last year’s Philadelphia Flyers almost capture the Cup with two goalies has perhaps made it look like it’s a winning recipe. And the Caps have the trust in their system and goaltenders to believe it’s possible.
“I don’t think it matters if you have a goalie playing an entire series. Sharing the load is always better,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “You don’t see a goalie play 82 games in the regular season, so why play [as many as 28] games in the playoffs if they don’t have to?”
Among teams that have won the Stanley Cup since 1990, only the 2007 Anaheim Ducks had a starter play in fewer than 20 games -and that’s because they needed just 21 to go all the way. But even Anaheim had four goalies start regular-season games. Last year’s Chicago Blackhawks split regular-season games almost evenly between Antti Niemi and former Caps goalie Cristobal Huet (Huet started more), but Niemi played all but 20 playoff minutes.
Goldman said increased traffic in front, a faster-paced game since the lockout and a more grueling schedule have made it almost necessary for goalies to share the net - there’s just much more that comes with goaltending now than in decades past. Still, he said, “You can’t really look at previous seasons and say, ‘Oh the game has changed and a goalie can’t go four series and play at a high level.’ “
The Caps are only three games into a run they hope will last more than 20. And while Boudreau has insisted he doesn’t have a crystal ball to predict how the goalie situation will work out, he and his players have said Neuvirth can keep his starting spot if he gets hot.
If he falters or tires, the plan could change. But one thing is always an ingredient for success in playoff hockey no matter the system used to get there.
“Goaltending has to play an integral role in a Stanley Cup run,” Irbe said. “If you don’t have great goaltending in the playoffs, you really don’t stand a chance.”