With goalie Semyon Varlamov perhaps set to face shots today as he works his way back from what’s believed to be a knee injury, the Washington Capitals soon may have three goalies with strong cases to be the regular starter.
That means eventually Coach Bruce Boudreau and GM George McPhee must confront some difficult choices among Varlamov, Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby.
Goaltending has been a major factor during Washington’s six-game winning streak. The Capitals have yielded eight goals over that time and have not surrendered more than two goals in any of those games. Washington has moved up to fourth in the league in goals allowed at 2.38 per game.
“I mean all three goalies are playing great,” Boudreau said. “Where it was a two-man competition, now it almost looks like it’s a three-man competition, so it’s really good to see.”
The current sensation is Holtby, who logged his first shutout on Wednesday in Washington’s 5-0 victory over Edmonton. Holtby made 22 saves in that game and has stopped 130 of 133 shots over his last five games, with a record of 4-0-1.
On Monday against Tampa Bay, Holtby relieved Neuvirth, who had been struck with a puck that dislodged his mask, after the first period and stopped all 21 shots for a 2-1 shootout victory.
Neuvirth had appeared to move into the lead for the regular No. 1 slot before yielding to Holtby, compiling a 22-10-4 record with a 2.47 goals-against average. His 22 victories are a team rookie record, and during a personal four-game winning streak from Feb. 26 to March 6, Neuvirth had a 1.73 GAA and .942 save percentage.
Varlamov, meantime, is the most playoff tested. During the 2008-09 postseason, he started 13 out of 14 games and finished fifth in playoff save percentage (.918), tied for fifth in wins (seven) and sixth in goals-against average (2.53). His two playoff shutouts were tied for the most in the league.
“Don’t ask,” Boudreau joked when asked how he planned to choose among the trio. “Call George.
“I don’t know. As long as they’re all playing good, it’s great, and they are all playing good.”