Think there’s a goalie controversy in Washington? Not according to Brian MacLellan. The Capitals general manager was interviewed Tuesday on the Hockey Central radio show from SportsNet in Canada and made clear that while Ilya Samsonov may be the future starter for the Capitals, Holtby remains the No. 1.
“Holtby’s our guy. He has the Cup, he’s got a history, he’s been a huge part of our organization,” MacLellan said. “He’s our No. 1 guy.”
This has become a hot topic around Washington considering the stats. While Holtby has gotten a majority of the start this season, Samsonov statitically has been the better netminder.
Holtby: 31 games played, 18-8-4, .901 save percentage, 2.99 GAA
Samsonov: 16 games played, 12-2-1, .921 save percentage, 2.24 GAA
With Holtby on the final year of his contract, the Caps found themselves in an awkward situation in which the team is both focused on winning now and preparing for the future between the pipes. Samsonov has long been considered the heir apparent to take over as the starting goalie in Washington since he was selected in the first round in the 2016 draft. Even though he had only one season of experience in North America heading into this season, the team felt compelled to develop Samsonov for the NHL and he has served as Holtby's backup.
“I think what we’ve been trying to do is develop Samsonov and he’s handled everything we’ve thrown at him very well,” MacLellan said. “He’s continually gotten better, he works at his game, he’s calm under pressure. We’ve put him in difficult starts lately where we’re on the road and playing against good teams and he’s responded well to that. I think it’s more, our team’s about Holtby but we’re developing Samsonov and trying to do what’s best for both guys.”
The future certainly appears bright for the 22-year-old rookie, but MacLellan also made clear that both goalies still have a role to play in the present.
“Hopefully they’re both healthy and we can use both down the stretch and into the playoffs.”
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