Caps’ Holtby now the backup plan after Halak acquisition

March 13

Capitals goalie Braden Holtby’s last start was March 6 against the Bruins. (Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby’s season has not gone according to plan.

It began as expected, with the 24-year-old handling the bulk of the workload, starting 22 of Washington’s first 27 games.

Since then, Holtby, who struggled through a midseason slump, has spent more time on the bench than in the crease, having started only 17 of the Capitals’ past 40 games.

Last week, Washington traded for goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who has started the past three games just as Holtby was seemingly rediscovering a rhythm.

Despite his competitive fire, Holtby publicly supported the acquisition when asked about his current situation.

“The move made sense for us,” he said Thursday. “You bring a guy like [Halak] in, you want to see what he can do to help the team.”

Holtby was scheduled to start Tuesday against the Penguins, but after Halak faced just 20 shots in Washington’s 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh the evening before, coach Adam Oates elected to start Halak again. He made 32 saves in a 2-0 loss.

“[Halak] came in and played and gave us a good chance,” Oates said. “Played a good team, gave us a good chance two times in a row, so we went with him.”

Oates did not divulge which goaltender would start Friday against the Canucks, but the Capitals will need both of them as they claw toward a playoff spot.

With 15 games remaining, Washington trails Columbus and Philadelphia by three points in the Metropolitan Division and wild-card race, respectively, with each team holding two games in hand.

Holtby has proven capable of handling high-pressure situations, so if and when his time comes to do so again, he will be prepared.

“This is a normal hockey situation,” Holtby said. “This is normal for goalies. As long as [Halak’s] giving us a chance to win whenever he plays, that’s all we can ask for. I’m just trying to be a positive influence if I’m not playing and try to do anything I can when I am.”

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