It’s not all his fault, but it might be time for Braden Holtby to take a seat. They call him the “Holt-Beast” because he is known for aggressively challenging the puck and making all sorts of quick recovery saves. His problem is that he often has to make those saves because he’s often out of position. This hasn’t been a big problem in the past few seasons because you had a lot of veteran stay-at-home defensemen. Now that the defense core is littered with young rookies such as preseason standout Connor Carrick, and the Caps are going to the 1-3-1 power play style offensive attack, it’s been leaving Holtby hanging out to dry.
This wouldn’t be as big of an issue on most teams, but sitting on the depth chart right below Braden is another netminder who on any other team could be a number one between the pipes. Michal Neuvirth has outlasted Semyon Varlamov, Jose Theodore, and Thomas Vokoun in a Caps sweater. Now he sits behind Holtby. The reason he has stayed when so many others have come and gone is that he is a solid, very positionally ound, goalie. He doesn’t have the flashy glove or the challenging nature that Holtby has, but that’s just the reason he should be in the net for at least the foreseeable future.
When he was called into action last Thursday in the first period, when Holtby got the hook after letting in three unanswered goals, he stood tall and kept his team in it all the way through the third and for a full overtime period. Where he shined and showed his positional strength was the shootout. He stopped both shots he faced barely flinching, waiting for the shooter to make his move first and then reacting, but all the while staying in perfect position to stop the shot.
In the fast paced game of the NHL the easiest way to get a goalie to get off his angles is to move him side to side. Tonight the Hurricanes got Holtby moving by facing multiple shots from different angles, and after one or two he was well out of position and the final shots easily got past him. This, again, wasn’t his fault. The defense should have cleared the shooters out of the lane after the first shot, but this is exactly why we need Neuvirth in that position. If we are going to keep rookies like Urbom, Carrick and Orlov in the line-up then there should be an unflappable brick wall standing behind them as the last line of defense. As it stands right now that wall should be a young Czeck and not the Holt-Beast. That being said it’s a long season and these rookies will look like veterans before we know it. Maybe then we get the flash back, but for now let’s keep it simple.
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