Adam Oates made a statement when he yanked goaltender Michal Neuvirth after allowing a soft goal Thursday night. Porous goaltending might not be the most detrimental part of the Washington Capitals' start, but it sure isn't helping. Both Neuvirth and Saturday night's starter, Braden Holtby, have save percentages below .900.
"They're in a slump; they got to get out of it like a lot of us, Oates said. "They go in slumps, too, like everybody else. It's just it's more magnified at times."
General manager George McPhee agreed, even though he put penalties above goaltending on the list of concerns. Given the Caps' short-handed woes, those two are not mutually exclusive.
"Neuvirth is a good solid goaltender. Holtby played really well in the playoffs. It's time for these two guys to play," McPhee said. "Give them lots of games and see how they do. And right now it's not going the way they had hoped."
It's not, but the Caps appear content to let Holtby and Neuvirth figure this thing out.
"Yeah obviously we need to get better," Neuvirth said.
Holtby, who allowed three goals on the first 11 shots he faced Thursday in relief of Neuvirth, starts Saturday night back at Verizon Center against the Florida Panthers.
When both goalies are struggling, picking one isn't always easy for Oates and his staff.
"It's tough because I really believe we're a team. You can't blame it on one person. I don't," the Caps' coach said. "That's something the team has to get through. We have to help [whichever goalie plays] and he has to help us at times. But it's still the team."
Holtby said amid a 2-8-1 start "everyone in here knows they can be better." But Friday he was already willing to distance himself from what happened so far.
"That's in the past, it's all in the past now," Holtby said. "We have to move forward. Looking at how we've played in the past isn't going to help us at this point. We've dwelled on that long enough to dig us into this hole so right now our focus is on the next game, doing little things that we need to, treat it as just another hockey game and have our patience."
Patience runs thin when goals keep coming at bad times. It's not even a volume of bad goals; it's that they have been cropping up at inopportune moments.
"You can look at it that way that there's momentum shifts and stuff, but as a goalie you basically focus on every shot no matter what the circumstances once you start feeling you have to make a save at a certain time that's when you put added pressure on yourself and usually you make mistakes then," Holtby said. "So it's just not worry about the score, not worry about the circumstance, just focus on the task, which is the next shot."
McPhee isn't worried that the 22-year-old Holtby and 24-year-old Neuvirth didn't get enough development. In fact, the young goalies have a healthy amount of NHL experience to draw from.
"You just got to fight through this," Neuvirth said. "You've got to go through tough times sometimes and you just got to fight through it."
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