Now that Braden Holtby has matched Martin Brodeur’s single-season wins record, would the Capitals consider giving him the start tonight in their meaningless season finale against the Anaheim Ducks (7 p.m. Pregame Live, CSN)?
“Has not even crossed my mind," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said after Friday night’s history-making 5-1 win over the Blues in St. Louis, where Holtby won his 48th game and Alex Ovechkin reached 50 goals for the seventh time in his career.
“We'll see. There's reasons. … To me the most important thing is not putting (Holtby) at risk and be ready for the playoffs."
Holtby faced just 20 shots in Saturday night’s victory and with the Caps’ first-round playoff series expected to begin no earlier than Thursday night at Verizon Center, Holtby would have plenty of time to recover for the start of the post-season.
He’s also started “just” 66 games this season, seven fewer than he did last season.
So, should the Caps give their 26-year-old netminder the opportunity to stand alone atop the NHL mountain with 49 wins? Or, should they rest him for what could be a long post-season run and give Philipp Grubauer the start tonight?
"I would love to play every game," Holtby said Saturday night, "but I don't make those decisions."
Those decisions fall on the shoulders of Trotz and goaltending coach Mitch Korn, who indicated last week – pretty strongly by the way – that the Caps intended on giving Grubauer one start this weekend.
“We will split them for two reasons,” Korn said. “The first is, I know you can get hurt in any given game, but we’re not going to put ourselves in jeopardy. If (Holtby) got hurt in a back-to-back, you open yourself up. You’re just going to get shot at (by second-guessers). And we have to keep Philipp ready. So, he’s got to play a game.”
If, indeed, Grubauer plays tonight, will the Capitals consider resting star left wing Alex Ovechkin, who also had a pretty historic night Saturday in St. Louis, becoming the first player in NHL history to have three straight 50-goal seasons twice (he also did it from 2007-10).
Ovechkin was clearly on a mission to score 50 goals now that he’s done it for the seventh time, joining an exclusive group of two (Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy each did it nine times), is there any sense in playing him tonight?
(For what it’s worth, the Penguins rested captain Sidney Crosby in their meaningless regular season finale against the Flyers on Saturday).
"The guys tried to find me out there," Ovechkin said. "I just have to put it in. It's harder and harder to score goals in this league, so I'm excited.”
MORE CAPITALS: Will history play a role when the Caps meet the Flyers?