If there’s anything in Washington that’s been as steady as Alex Ovechkin filling the net, it’s wondering who, exactly, would be their No. 1 goalie.
The list of guys who have been the leading man in goal since 2007 is an exhaustive one: Olaf Kolzig, Jose Theodore, Michal Neuvirth, Semyon Varlamov, Tomas Vokoun. The newest name to that list is one that should put an end to the stop-gap method that’s plagued the Capitals in recent years.
Braden Holtby took over last season as the team’s starting goalie, beating out Neuvirth for the job. Once he earned Adam Oates’ trust, his play along with Ovechkin’s steady offense led the Caps out of the Eastern Conference cellar and into the playoffs.
While Holtby is headed into his fourth season with the Caps, his résumé thus far reads like that of a guy who isn’t relinquishing his starting job anytime soon.
2010-2011: 10-2-2 .934 SV% 1.79 GAA
2011-2012: 4-2-1 .922 SV% 2.49 GAA
2012-2013: 23-12-1 .920 SV% 2.55 GAA
If you want to poke holes in what Holtby’s done, the easiest way to do that is yell about the small sample size. Fair enough. No one should be crowned after just 57 NHL games. Of course, his record in the AHL with the Hershey Bears was pretty good too.
Washington has the luxury of having many young goalies who all may blossom and become elite starters. Neuvirth has had his moments in the sun and Philipp Grubauer is waiting for his chance to shine in the minors. Neuvirth is the old man of the bunch at 24 years old while Holtby is 23 and Grubauer is 21.
That said, those other two haven’t put up the same kinds of numbers Holtby has at either pro level. His invite to Team Canada’s Olympic camp wasn’t just for laughs. He’s shown he can compete at that level and he may just be there to stay for a while.
Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.
It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.
The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.
As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.
Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?
The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.
This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.
Zack Kassian may have avoided major injuries stemming from his Sunday car accident, but it likely sent the signal that he may need help.
The response: he was placed in Stage Two of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH) of the NHL and NHLPA on Monday.
According to the league’s release, Kassian “will be suspended without pay until cleared for on-ice competition by the program administrators.”
Speaking of being suspended without pay, here’s a key detail:
The 24-year-old ended up with a broken nose and broken foot from that accident. The 2015-16 season was set to be his first campaign in the Montreal Canadiens organization after a tumultuous time with the Vancouver Canucks.
Kassian spoke of becoming more mature heading to Montreal, but the Canadiens were critical of his actions, wondering how many wake-up calls someone can get.
In case you’re wondering about the difference between stage one and two: