While the Capitals have plenty of problems at the moment — their top scorers aren’t scoring and their No. 1 defenseman has missed the bulk of the season — the team’s less-than-stellar goaltending has ranked fairly high on that list, especially after Tuesday night’s 5-1 loss to the Flyers.
After yielding four goals on 21 shots before being pulled at the start of the third period, veteran Tomas Vokoun’s goals against average dropped to 2.81 (31st) and his save percentage fell to .906 (25th).
At the start of the season, Vokoun was seen as the player who would push Washington deeper into the playoffs. But he hasn’t delivered. Now what do the Capitals do?
Maybe the answer is nothing, writes Tarik El-Bashir in his latest On Hockey column:
A veteran-laden team should possess enough mental fortitude to overcome a soft goal. But the Capitals are a fragile group these days, and goals such as Hartnell’s can easily shatter the team’s collective confidence.
There don’t appear to be any quick fixes.
Backup goalie Michal Neuvirth has worse numbers than Vokoun, his 3.73 goals against average and .875 save percentage ranking last on NHL.com. Touted minor league prospect Braden Holtby, meantime, hasn’t been much better in Hershey. The 22-year-old has a .897 save percentage and 2.60 goals against average, not to mention the Capitals are up against the salary cap, which complicates matters.
Given all that, the Capitals’ best hope is that Vokoun works his way out of the slump, just as he’s done at times throughout his 14-year career. He entered the season tied for the best save percentage (.922) in the NHL since the lockout for a reason.
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