During NBC’s broadcast of the Capitals’ 6-5 overtime victory against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday, analyst Joe Micheletti said Capitals general manager George McPhee told him the Caps would have 10 more points with better goaltending.
“I think if we pay any attention to comments like that I think it brings the team apart,” Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby said after practice on Monday. “We have to go out there and play on the ice. We can’t focus on that other stuff.
“We’re all trying to accomplish the same goal of winning games and we don’t want to be separated by things like that. In one ear, out the other and we’ll focus on the next game.”
McPhee declined to comment on Monday.
The Capitals rank 24th in the NHL with a goals-against average of 2.87.
Holtby is 15-13-2 with a 3.00 goals-against average and .909 save percentage. Michal Neuvirth is 4-5-2 with a 2.97 GAA and .910 save percentage. Philip Grubauer, now in Hershey, went 6-4-5 with a 2.38 GAA and .926 save percentage when he was with the Capitals.
“I would say there are probably nights [the Caps’ goalies] could have played better,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said, “and there are nights they could all play better. I think there’s definitely 10 points out there that we’ve wasted. I think it’s an accumulation of all of us.”
Since Grubauer was assigned to Hershey on Jan. 20, Holtby has gone 2-2-0 and has allowed 11 goals in four starts. Neuvirth has gone 1-1-1 and has allowed 10 goals in three starts.
So who’s net is it now?
“We’re looking for one guy to take charge and play good and not let his buddy get in the net, in a sense,” Oates said. “We hope that for the rest of this week and coming off the [Olympic] break we can do that.”
While Oates said everyone’s to blame for goals, he emphasized the need for his goalies to make the routine saves during hockey games and pointed to Tomas Tatar’s short side goal off Neuvirth’s blocker 6:30 into the second period as an example. The Caps were leading 3-1 just before that goal.
“If he makes that save, and to me that’s a savable puck, do they score three more?” Oates wondered. “I can’t answer that.
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“But as a team, [when] that goes in, it gives them a little bit of life, it puts us back a page and before you know it we have a couple icings and all of a sudden we’re on our heels. Sometimes the stop is more than just one save.”
Oates drew the comparison to the first play from scrimmage in Sunday night’s Super Bowl, when the ball was snapped over Peyton Manning’s head and into the end zone for a safety.
“It seemed like [the Broncos] never could dig themselves out after that first play,” Oates said. “I say it all the time, we’re turning into football, right? One play matters. Momentum swings are huge.
“If our goaltender can stop a momentum swing, great. I don’t want the spectacular save, I don’t. It’s a bonus. But the stock save you want. But in fairness to them, we’ve got to play better in front of them. We’ve got to help them out some nights.”
As for Holtby, he said he’s trying to get through what he called a “frustrating” year.
“It has not been exactly what I expected at the start of the year,” He said. “But my main focus right now is to be the best goaltender I can be, whatever I think that is and whatever [goalie coach] Olie [Kolzig] thinks that is. We work together on things like that. No matter how bad things are, we’re going to keep working and trying to get better.”