Capitals general manager Geoge McPhee met with members of the media on Friday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex to discuss, among other things, the upcoming NHL trade deadline, the expectations on his team, and the recent criticism heaped on Alex Ovechkin.
In Part Two, McPhee discusses the Caps’ goaltending, his thoughts on Alex Ovechkin’s switch to right wing:
On if the emergence of Braden Holtby makes Michal Neuvirth expendable before the NHL trade deadline:
Not necessarily. This situation could have been reversed. It could have been Michal playing all the games. Adam designated Braden as the guy who would start and play more games but I don’t necessarily see it that way. I like to have the goalies come to camp and whoever has the best camp starts the first game and then you go from there. The fact Braden’s playing a lot doesn’t mean Neuvirth is not a good goalie. I think he’s a heck of a goalie. I like him a lot. We went to put him a couple times in the last few weeks and he was sick. Who knows? Maybe he goes in and pitches a shutout, he plays the next game and it goes in a different direction. We have two young goaltenders and I’m comfortable having both of them here.
I’m in no hurry to make a change there. It’s the most important position in the game and you have to be careful. We felt we could move [Semyon] Varlamov [to Colorado] because we had these two kids coming and we’ve got [Philipp] Grubauer now, but you’d like for [Grubauer] to have a little more experience.
On the development of Grubauer, the Hershey Bears’ 21-year-old goaltender:
I like him a lot. I think he’s every bit as good as the goalies ahead of him. They’re a little bit older than him but he’s a good one. He’s a very talented kid and there are no issues whatsoever with his work ethic and maturity. He has real good character, one of those guys who can play in playoff games and won’t wilt on you. He’ll stand in there and compete. He’s had a lot of success in every place he’s been.
On Alex Ovechkin’s move to right wing:
I think it’s gone really well. I like the results. Ovi is back to being one of the league leaders in shots on goal [4.2 a game]. He’s leading the league in power play goals  and he’s getting a lot of chances on the right side. Adam said he had 55 touches the other day in the game against the Islanders. That’s a lot of puck possession and a lot of time around the puck. He’s adjusted and I think he’s become more effective. He penetrates a lot more now, he takes the puck wide and to the net more now than when he was on the left side. We have fewer turnovers at the opposition’s blue line, which is one of the things we wanted to work on. He’s finding it a little easier to get out of our own zone when the puck comes around the boards, taking it on the backhand and looking up ice instead of the other way around. So, we like it.
On the difficulty of moving from left wing to right wing:
I haven’t talked to him about that in a long time. It looks like he’s adjusted. I like the way it looks. I know [Ilya] Kovalchuk mentioned a few months ago that he doesn’t even think about it anymore. I know sometimes when you’re a winger and you’re playing the other wing the biggest issue sometimes is coming back, when you’re backchecking or tracking back, you start drifting to the side you always went to because you’re trying to read the play and subconsciously you go in that direction. It takes a little while to clean that out and go to the other side, but I thought it was a good plan and I think it’s working really well. In today’s game, limiting the turnovers and still generating the offense, I think it’s a real success.
On the heat Ovechkin has taken from the national media:
You know there are some players who get too much praise when things are rolling well and too much criticism when they aren’t going well. I don’t know how you control that. Yeah, he’s an elite player and when we’re not going well they seem to dump it all on him. But he’s a big boy and he knows the stakes.
On how Ovechkin responds to the criticism:
I think Ovi’s been really amazing over the years in how much he’s had to absorb and shoulder here. He has made life a lot easier for everybody else because how many other guys get criticized? And he does. It’s allowed other players to play their game and feel comfortable. No one likes criticism and that’s hard on people sometimes. Ovi’s been a magnet for a lot of praise and a lot of criticism. He’s a star player and that’s his story. That’s the life you lead. That’s the way it goes.