We're Number Ones

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel

It’s not often that a goaltender pitches a shutout in the NHL and finds himself headed back to the minors less than 18 hours later. Such was the case for the Caps’ Braden Holtby this past weekend, though. Originally slated to start on Friday night for the AHL Hershey Bears in Glens Falls, N.Y. against the Adirondack Phantoms, Holtby was instead held out of that start and on the bench as the back-up for the Bears. After the game, he was chauffeured to Montreal – a three-hour drive – where he was to start for the Capitals on Saturday. Holtby learned of his impending Hockey Night in Canada starting assignment via text, but the 21-year-old is seemingly nonplussed by everything these days. He merely awaits his opportunities and makes the most of them. “I’m kind of getting used to that,” said Holtby on Saturday morning when asked about the spate of call-ups and reassignments. “You never really know when you’re going to get the call. I’m just fortunate that I did. I’m going to really focus on the game tonight and hopefully put in a good performance.” Holtby did exactly that. He blanked the Habs on just 18 shots to earn the 10th win and second shutout of his rookie season. Caps coach Bruce Boudreau hasn’t named his starting goaltender for the impending Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Holtby isn’t thinking that far ahead. “My goal isn’t to make his decision difficult,” said Holtby after Saturday’s shutout win over the Canadiens. “My goal is to come in here and make sure that I’m helping the team out in order to make a chase at first place and make sure we’re going into the playoffs with a good attitude in the dressing room. Whatever happens, happens. I support every decision they make.” Boudreau will be hard-pressed to make a wrong decision in this case. His team has been extremely stingy defensively for the equivalent of a half season and then some. In the last 44 games, Washington has surrendered just 87 goals for an average of 1.98 goals per game. The Capitals have allowed two or fewer goals in 30 of those 44 games. Since the lockout that killed what would have been the 2004-05 NHL season, no team has posted a goals against average lower than 2.18 (Detroit in 2007-08) over a full season. Holtby has been terrific in the nine games (eight starts) in which he has seen action during that span. He is 8-0-1 with two shutouts, a 1.01 GAA and a .964 save pct. That said, the other two Washington goaltenders have performed quite well during those 44 games, too. Michal Neuvirth is 12-6-2 with three shutouts in 22 games (21 starts) with a 2.25 GAA and a .923 save pct. Semyon Varlamov is only 6-5-4 with a shutout in 16 games (15 starts), but he sports an impressive 2.04 GAA and a .931 save pct. during that span. The Caps have been blanked in six of Varlamov’s last 17 starts, and they’ve supported him with a meager 30 goals worth of offense in his last 19 games in net. The Capitals are 26-11-7 in their last 44 games, a pace that would produce 110 points over a full 82-game schedule. In Saturday’s win over the Canadiens, Washington turned in one of its most dominant and complete defensive efforts of the season. “We watched some video earlier today of when we were playing good, dumping pucks in and finishing checks.” said Caps defenseman Karl Alzner after the Montreal game. “Last game, I think we only had something like 15 hits. It wasn’t very good. “We know that our game is hard-hitting and fast, down low, grind ‘em out kind of game. We just started trying to wear down their [defense], and they ended up turning pucks over. They’ve got some guys who like to handle the puck a little bit. If you go through them every single time you’re going to create those turnovers. We just played a tight game. It’s good to see.” As long as Boudreau’s team keeps playing that “tight” defensive style, he has three great options in goal. A reporter mentioned to Boudreau today that the Caps don’t have a No. 1 goaltender. Boudreau was quick to correct him. “We have three No. 1 goaltenders.”

next up:

Ovechkin, Arnott Back in Caps' Lineup

January 14, 2013

Veteran center Jason Arnott spoke to reporters after a brief morning skate on Tuesday, but he was noncommittal as to his possible presence in the lineup tonight. “I don’t know yet,” said Arnott. “I have to talk to the coaches and trainers and go from there.” Minutes later, reporters had a crack at

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