ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Capitals have a problem. It’s not the type of problem that could torpedo their season or keep them out of the playoffs. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, The problem in Washington is that it has two goalies who are playing really well. Obviously, the Caps should not expect much sympathy from the rest of the league.
It’s a problem, general manager Brian MacLellan knows its a problem, but it’s the best kind of problem.
Braden Holtby is tied for the league lead in wins with a 13-2-4 record on the season. His .909 save percentage and 2.86 GAA may not look all that impressive, but Holtby had a tough start to the season. He has rebounded in a big way and in the month of November posted a .928 save percentage and 2.24 GAA.
“He's a mature guy,” MacLellan said. “He's good at what he does. The times he does get off his game, he works hard to get back on the game.”
Backing up Holtby is rookie netminder Ilya Samsonov. He has only nine games of NHL experience, but already has six wins with a .914 save percentage and 2.58 GAA. And, at 22 years old, he’s only getting better.
“Last half of last year, at the AHL level he's shown what he can do,” MacLellan said. “He seems to absorb a lot of instruction. He picks it up quick. I think he adjusts to the level of NHL shooters. He's a guy that's competitive that wants to get good and that really works at it and so I don't think it's a surprise that he's doing as well as he is.”
So what’s the issue?
The problem comes from the fact that Braden Holtby is on the last year of his contract and in need of a raise. Not only is the team dealing with a severe cap crunch, but everything is made more complicated by the upcoming Seattle expansion draft in which teams will only be allowed to protect one goalie. That means MacLellan has the unenviable task in the offseason of choosing who will be the team's future in net.
Sure, Holtby is a Vezina and Stanley Cup winner and has been the starter in Washington for several years, but Samsonov is younger and thus far proving to be everything the Caps hoped he would when they drafted him.
“You'd have to make a decision on goalies I would assume if Samsonov continues on the track he's on,” MacLellan said of the expansion draft.
While many fans are already hopping on Team Holtby or Team Samsonov, MacLellan made it clear that it is too early to make any decision in net because many of the factors that will go into that decision are not yet known.
"It's tough to say what the cap is going to be and it's tough to say what other personnel decisions you can make," he said. "We're projecting here something that's difficult to project."
Having to choose between two starting goalies is a good problem to have. Some teams don't have any. But it is still a real problem made tougher every day as both netminders continue to play at the top of their game.
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