Even before Braden Holtby received the NHL's first star of the week, there was little doubt that Washington had three strong goalies in the system. But have we seen enough of the Holtby, Michal Neuvirth or Semyon Varlamov to make any decisions about their future, including their performance in the upcoming playoffs?

We can use confidence intervals to show just how wide a spread these young goalies could have in terms of save percentage “ability.” You've probably seen them before in political polling.

When they say, “Joe Politico leads the polls with 52 percent,” what they are really saying is that “Joe Politico leads the people we polled, but since we didn't survey everyone, there is room for error, usually plus or minus 3 percent. So what we are really saying is that we are 95 percent certain he could be leading by as much as 55 percent, or actually be behind with only 49 percent.”

We know how the Capitals’ goalies have done to date with a relatively small sample size, so we can estimate with a 95 percent confidence level as to what their “true” save percentage ability is. I use save percentage because that is less team-dependent than wins or goals against average.

We can be fairly sure that the NHL average save percentage is between .911 and .914 based on shots against this season. We cannot be reasonably sure that any of the trio has NHL talent that is average or above over the long haul. At least not yet. One needs more than 2,000 shots to make a decision about a goalie, so that puts all three of the young netminders solidly in the “uncertain” column.

Actual Totals95% Confidence Interval
PlayerGamesGoals AgainstShots AgainstSv%LowHigh
Holtby1220288.931.901.960
Varlamov561301,554.916.903.930
Neuvirth631441,643.912.899.926
NHL average .912.911.914


For example, look at Holtby during his first call-up: He posted an underwhelming .845 save percentage compared to his second call-up, which has a stellar .966. Which is the real Holtby -- or, at the very least, the one who would show up in the playoffs if given the chance? It’s a tough call.

Don't get me wrong: Having three young goaltenders in the system who are able to play at the NHL level is a welcome problem. We as fans just have to keep our expectations reasonable – especially as we enter the stretch run into the playoffs.

Neil Greenberg also writes for Russian Machine Never Breaks. Follow him on Twitter: @ngreenberg.