Goalies need more support
Braden Holtby’s play in net this season has put him on top of the NHL leader board with the most wins at 21. The Caps lead the league with the lowest goals against per game with 2.61 and most of that is due to Holtby. Watching him develop into an elite goalie under Coach Mitch Korn is fun. But, the Caps players have not given him, or his backup Philip Grubauer, the defense they deserve. The goalies need more support.
It showed when Holtby started in Tampa Bay and let in 3 goals on 12 shots. They Caps broke down, in front of him, like they do for parts of what seems like every game, particularly, during their notorious slow starts to games. Coach Barry Trotz pulled Holtby because he wanted to send a message to the players. He’s reaching elite numbers and is 1st in GAA% with a 1.96 and 5th in SV% with a .931. His highlight reel saves are becoming as common as Alex Ovechkin’s highlight reel goals and they’re responsible for helping Holtby win those 21 games. He is doing his job, but the same cannot be said for all of his teammates on a consistent basis.
Yes, the Caps are 25-6-2, but they play sloppy, at times, and then expect Holtby, or Grubauer, to bail them out. The Caps players need to be responsible for cleaning up their mistakes in the defensive zone. They went 6-1 while playing 7 games in 13 days, but that blazing pace is due to their net minders keeping pucks out of the net.
It is nice that their grind it out win in Carolina tonight showed they found another way to win. When their legs looked like they were skating in quicksand, they dug deep for that extra gear and made it through that final penalty kill for that ridiculous too many men on the ice penalty. This, after two comeback games, one in Tampa Bay and last night in New York as they were down by two goals at the end of the first period last night, but ended up winning the game with six unanswered goals. That’s the last piece of balance the Caps need, a way to grind out a win with offense as often as their goalies bail them out.
No team is going to play the game the right way for an 82-game season and, at a minimum, 16 more games to lift the Cup, but when the Caps play the right way they give their goalies support and they win easily. It is that simple and it is fun to watch.
Let’s go Caps!