When General Manager George McPhee assessed the 2-8-1 Capitals on Friday, he singled out two main areas of concern: the abundance of unnecessary penalties and the need for improved outings from goaltenders Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby.
“We don’t spend a lot of time in our zone, we protect our defensemen, we’re consistently out-chancing the other team and we’re getting more attacks than we’ve had, so we’re doing a lot of things well,” McPhee said. “But the penalties and [lack of] timely saves — the goaltenders have to be better — are hurting the club right now.”
Both Neuvirth (1-4-1, .889 save percentage, 3.05 GAA) and Holtby (1-4-0, .857 save percentage, 4.74 GAA) have struggled through the first 11 games this season. Their poor numbers are partially a reflection of how often the team is short-handed and the breakdowns that occur to create scoring chances for the opposition, but the Capitals need them both to improve.
“Obviously, we need to get better,” said Neuvirth, who was pulled after allowing two goals on 11 shots to Pittsburgh on Thursday. “You just got to fight through this. You’ve got to go through tough times sometimes and you just got to fight through it.”
Holtby, who allowed three goals on the first 11 shots he faced in relief against the Penguins, will get the start Saturday night against the Panthers at Verizon Center.
The 22-year-old didn’t waste any time in putting the previous performances behind him as both he and the Capitals continue searching for a strong showing to build off.
“Obviously everyone in here knows they can be better,” Holtby said Friday. “That’s in the past, it’s all in the past now. We have to move forward. Looking at how we’ve played in the past isn’t going to help us at this point. We’ve dwelled on that long enough to dig us into this hole so right now our focus is on the next game, doing little things that we need to, treat it as just another hockey game and have our patience.”
McPhee wants to see more timely stops from both Neuvirth and Holtby, but added that they’ve both reached stages in their careers where they must work through this slump by playing games.
“We think we’ve done a real good job of developing them. They’ve had their time in Hershey,” McPhee said. “There is upside there with these goaltenders. But they can both play better and they know it. And it’s time for them to play.
“Neuvirth is a good, solid goaltender. Holtby played really well in the playoffs. It’s time for these two guys to play,” McPhee said. “Give them lots of games and see how they do. And right now it’s not going the way they had hoped.”