Capitals Offseason Breakdown: Goaltender

Posted on May 10, 2014 by Elliott Smith

This offseason shapes up to be one of the most critical in recent memory for the Washington Capitals, who are coming off a campaign during which they did not qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs and must find a new general manager and head coach.

During the next few weeks, the Capitals Report will take a look at the landscape of the team, noting strengths and what potential moves may be made to shore up potential weaknesses. We'll start with perhaps the position with the least number of moving parts -- goaltender. 

Capitals 2013: Braden Holtby

Photo Credit: Mitch Stringer/PressBox

Braden Holtby 
2013-14 stats: 23-13-4, .915 save percentage, 2.85 goals-against average; career stats: 60-31-8, .919 save percentage, 2.60 goals-against average

For all intents and purposes, Braden Holtby is the Capitals' starting goalie heading into the 2014-15 season, but that doesn't mean the position is rock solid.

During his fourth season, the 24-year-old Holtby played in a career-high 48 contests, but didn't seem to be the kind of A-plus keeper that quality teams have between the pipes. Perhaps it was the fact that then-general George McPhee dealt for goalkeeper Jaroslav Halak, who started 12 games down the stretch, or that Holtby posted a career low in save percentage, but whatever the reason, Holtby didn't have a commanding hold of the starting spot at the end of the season.

One issue for Holtby, and all the team's goaltenders, was the Capitals' porous defense. Washington averaged 33.5 shots against per game, the fourth-highest average in the NHL. Holtby faced 1,475 total shots throughout the season. Then-coach Adam Oates also made an adjustment with Holtby, which led to him playing deeper in the crease. Partly because of those factors, Holtby wasn't sharp during the second half of the season, and finished the regular season tied for 22nd in the league in save percentage. 

But with the Caps dealing Halak to the New York Islanders May 1, it seems to signal that Holtby is the man they want starting at goalie for the near future. Confidence has appeared to be key for Holtby, and if the new regime steps in and assures him that he will get the first crack in net, his response should be solid. 

Philipp Grubauer
2013-14: 6-5-5, .925, 2.38; career: 6-6-5, .924, 2.48

With Halak and Michal Neuvirth gone, 22-year-old Philipp Grubauer slides into the No. 2 position for the Capitals, and he will look to make an impact after an up-and-down season between Washington and AHL affiliate Hershey. 

"Everybody is making a big deal out of the goalie situation," Grubauer told reporters. "I don't think it was bad. You had to earn your spot, and you had to earn your net in practice."

Would the Capitals go into the season with such a young 1-2 combination in net? That would depend on the new front office, but it wouldn't be surprising to see a veteran netminder added to the mix, which might put Grubauer back in Hershey for some more seasoning.

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