The longer the Capitals carry three goaltenders on their roster, the more the situation grows complicated as the organization tries to balance the development of three young goaltenders with the need to win.
From Wednesday’s paper: Capitals’ balancing act in goal growing precarious
In the past 10 days, Michal Neuvirth’s agent requested that Washington trade his client rather than continue to let the 25-year-old sit idle and Braden Holtby admitted a dip in confidence after he struggled in Minnesota, adding new twists to the equation. But goaltending coach Olie Kolzig insists that they and Philipp Grubauer have worked well in spite of the crowded crease.
“I think at some point it will sort itself out. How that happens I have no idea,” Kolzig said this week. “But for now I keep telling the guys really I love the attitude — all three of them. They’ve handled it great, they get along great. So from that standpoint it’s been easy to deal with.”
Still, Kolzig knows it’s been easier for Grubauer and Holtby than Neuvirth, who hasn’t even dressed for a game since he stepped on a puck and injured his ankle on Nov. 29. While he hasn’t talked to Neuvirth about the trade request – “To me it hasn’t been a factor.” – Kolzig said he’s seen nothing but a professional attitude from the team’s highest paid netminder ($2.5 million).
Neuvirth’s prolonged absence began with the ankle injury that caused him to miss just over two weeks. By the time he was healthy, Grubauer was rolling. It’s not the first time in recent years that Neuvirth’s missed out on a chance to step in due to injury. In last year’s lockout-shortened season, he missed three scheduled starts with injury or illness.
“With Neuvy the last couple years, unfortunately I don’t know how, that’s something he’s got to deal with is getting hurt at the wrong time,” Kolzig said. “There were times where [Tomas Vokoun] two years ago got hurt then Neuvy got hurt against [Florida], Holts came up and took the ball and ran with it. There were times last year where he had the opportunity too. For Neuvy, I think it’s a matter of when that opportunity presents itself again take advantage of it.”
Then there’s Holtby, who came into the year as number one and started 24 of the first 29 games. But Grubauer’s success has left Holtby on the bench, and in his first start in two weeks Saturday he allowed five goals on 11 shots in Minnesota. The game took a toll on Holtby’s confidence.
That’s to be expected, Kolzig said, but the way Holtby bounced back in practice after a day off prevented the coach from growing too concerned.
“He came out [Monday]and he had a fantastic practice. That’s what I like to see, I like to see him rebound, come out work hard in practice and make the necessary adjustments and be sharp,” Kolzig said. “I would have been disappointed today if he came in moping a little bit, every shot went by him, then I’d be worried. But based on practice [Monday] and the video session we had, I’m not too worried about it.
“I just tell him, it’s going to make you a better player. If you let this affect you it’s going to be really hard on you,” Kolzig said. “But if you can take something out of it as far as a positive or not letting it get to you where you deal with it in a proper way you’re eventually going to get out of this funk.”