Monday, November 22, 2010

But Only a Fool Would Complain?

So....I'm assuming the "Braden Holtby is ready for the NHL" crew is ready to take a deep breath?

And the "Let's trade Varly" bandwagon has plenty of good seats available right about now?

And we can temper the "Michal Neuvirth is definitely ready to handle the demands of a #1 starter" talk just a bit, at least for the time being?

Not to sound obvious, folks, but this is why teams who think they're contenders sometimes choose not to let go of proven depth in goal. This is why it wasn't foolish of people to suggest that goaltending might become an Achilles Heel for the Caps. This is why making any grand statements about how resolved your goaltending situation is after 20 games, or about what the crease situation will look like 60 games from now, is a fool's errand.

Washington is not playing well right now, and in truth it hasn't played very well over the last few weeks. Its fire-on-ice offense was masking some glaring inconsistency in its own zone and in goal. The coaching staff knew this and said as much last week, because they recognize that playing well and winning games can be two very different things in November. And that truth, which was increasingly apparent over the last eight contests, has now become impossibly obvious.

It's not time to panic....they're still tied for the top of the Eastern Conference, still leading their division, still one of the best teams in the NHL. But they've now given up 3+ goals in over half their games (13 times in 22 games, and 9 of the last 11). They're 15th in the NHL in team GAA and tied for 14th in team Save %. After a torrid start on the penalty kill, they're down to 10th overall and are the third-most shorthanded team in the league. If you're a Caps fan you should find this alarming, and this should point to the fact that the goaltending is something less than what it needs to be. Caps fans should be asking important questions: Can any of their young goalies hold up to the rigors of 55+ regular season games and be fresh/healthy come playoff time? Can the team expect consistent play in the crease night in and night out? Can three kids come together to embrace the physical and psychological pressures associated with playing on a genuine Stanley Cup contender? These are legitimate questions at this point in this season. Are they up to it?

Right now...I don't know.

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