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.