Associate goaltending coach Olie Kolzig was at practice Wednesday and shared a story about a similar thing happening to him in February 2001, when then-Caps coach Ron Wilson decided just minutes before a game at the Colorado Avalanche to start Craig Billington instead.
Though Kolzig was an established veteran at the time, he wants Neuvirth to build off his strong performance in a 3-2 loss to the Rangers on Sunday rather than dwell on Monday’s disappointment.
“I’ve been through it and it’s all about how you respond afterwards. I’d be more worried if he was OK,” Kolzig said. “I actually like the fact that it bothered him and that he was upset, and hopefully he can use that disappointment as a positive type of motivation.”
But analyst Justin Goldman of the Goalie Guild made the point that this season-long series of mind games with goaltenders can be “concerning” moving forward.
“If you’re a goaltender, you thrive on routine. You want to know what the decisions are, as far in advance as possible, so that you can prepare mentally and physically,” Goldman said. “If you’re blindsided by something, all of a sudden you are forced as a goaltender to go through certain emotional things that otherwise you wouldn’t have to go through.”
All too often this season, the Caps have blindsided their last line of defense. And goaltenders are at their best when on edge in the crease not knowing what’s coming next — not when they’re on edge waiting for the next questionable decision.