Logic dictates that Braden Holtby should be the Washington Capitals' starting goaltender entering the 2013 season based on his breakout postseason last spring (a 7-7 record, 1.95 goals against average and .935 save percentage). According to head coach Adam Oates, that seems to be the case among his players.
"The guys expect Holts to be in the net based on last year, for sure," he said Monday after the Caps completed their second day of training camp.
Yet, when it comes to the Caps and their goaltenders, logic be damned.
Just last season, Washington signed Tomas Vokoun during the summer and former head coach Bruce Boudreau quickly anointed him the starter only to have him watch the season opener from the bench when Michal Neuvirth had a strong training camp and preseason.
Back in a similar situation this winter, Neuvirth said Monday that he is "just preparing [himself] for whenever [he gets] the chance" and that Holtby "deserves to start the season," comments that could be perceived as him conceding the No. 1 job. Holtby, however, would not go as far, saying that he and Neuvirth will need to work together closely during a truncated season that has Washington playing essentially every other day, including eight sets of back-to-back games.
"No matter what the year's like, it's always a benefit to have two guys that are giving you a chance to win games," Holtby said. "You know the way the NHL is now, a couple games costs you a playoff spot. As much as Michal and I can give our team a chance to win in net, that will be a benefit to us."
Even though his charges may believe that Holtby has the fast track towards the starting position, Oates plans on riding the hot hand and giving both goaltenders an equal opportunity.
"Forty-eight games, I think both guys are gonna play a lot," Oates said. "I always say that when a guy is playing well, he's playing well. He should play."
“I’ve got two young kids," he continued, adding that Washington is in a much different situation than what he encountered as an assistant coach in New Jersey, where Martin Brodeur has carried the load for the Devils for the better part of two decades. "They’re both very good goalies."
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