Oates turns to Neuvirth against Maple Leafs

Oates turns to Neuvirth against Maple Leafs
February 5, 2013, 11:30 am
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Between them, Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby are allowing 3.67 goals per game, ranking the Capitals 27th in the NHL.

Tonight against the Maple Leafs, Capitals coach Adam Oates will turn to Neuvirth, giving him his sixth start in 10 games.

Through nine games Neuvirth’s numbers [1-3-1, 2.97 GAA , .899 save percentage] are significantly better than Holtby’s [1-3-0, 4.52, .862] but there has been a bigger issue at play this season.

The Caps are allowing too many goals off screens and deflections, often leaving their goaltenders helpless.

“It’s hard not to get frustrated with the results,” said Holtby, who has surrendered 18 goals in four starts. “I don’t remember any stretch in my career that so many goals have gone in that I feel I played them right. It’s a weird time and I believe in the process and that everything evens out.”

“It’s tough when we don’t see shots,” Neuvirth said. “But you’ve got to battle through and try to find the puck. If you don’t find it you have to be in the top of the crease and if you’re lucky the puck hits you.”

Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said the simple solution would be for defensemen to clear the crease in front of their goaltenders. But since the end of the 2004-05 lockout, the NHL has made it increasingly difficult for defensemen to punish opposing forwards.  

“That’s the toughest part in this league,” Alzner said. “You’re not allowed to run interference and guys are so good at tipping pucks. The only way to stop that is by blocking them at the top or not allowing them time to shoot. “

Holtby, who at 22 led the Capitals to within one win of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, said it’s important for him not to judge his first four games of the season on the number of goals he allowed because he didn’t see most of them.

“People see the breakaways and the 2-on-1s as scoring chances, but as a goaltender when I think of scoring chances those [screens and deflections] are the ones that are the toughest.

“It’s not humanly possible to react to a deflection from in close. You just put your body in the right position and hope it hits you.”

Based on Tuesday’s morning skate, here are the anticipated line combinations and defense pairings the Caps will use against the Leafs.

Forward Lines

Wojtek Wolski - Mike Ribeiro - Alex Ovechkin

Jason Chimera - Nicklas Backstrom - Troy Brouwer

Marcus Johansson - Joey Crabb - Joel Ward

Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Eric Fehr

Defense Pairings

Karl Alzner - Mike Green

Tom Poti - John Carlson

Jeff Schultz - Tomas Kundratek