Capitals considering benching Holtby while he works through dry spell

Watch as Nikita Kucherov appears to lose control of the puck, only to fool Braden Holtby and open up the five-hole to score for the Lightning.

It’s been a tough few months for Washington Capitals netminder Braden Holtby.

While his club remains atop the Metropolitan Division, a one-point lead separating it from the rival Pittsburgh Penguins, Holtby has seen his play continue to slide since the calendar turned to 2018.

Braden Holtby’s 2017-18 Save Percentage (by Month)
October (8 games played): .919%
November (11 games played): .919%
December (11 games played): .915%
January (7 games played): .910%
February (9 games played): .873%
March (2 games played): .868%

Pulled from the cage three times in his past six starts, Holtby hasn’t been able to string together more than two wins at a time since early February. With the longtime Capitals starter managing just five wins over his past 15 games, alongside a lowly save percentage of .882 over that span, head coach Barry Trotz is considering a temporary change in net.

“He hasn’t had a real good stretch,” Trotz told The Washington Post‘s Isabelle Khurshudyan recently. “He’s going to work with our goaltending coaches and get his game in order. He’s won a lot of games for us. He’s an elite goaltender in this league.

“Everybody goes through some dry spells, and he’s having one right now, really.”

If the club does opt for a temporary change to let Holtby rest and find his game, it’ll be Philipp Grubauer taking over the starting reins. Through 25 appearances this season, Grubauer has a .922 save percentage to his name, alongside an 8-7-3 record through 18 starts.

Don’t mistake a potential swap in net for a genuine goaltending controversy, however, as Trotz made it clear the club still believes in Holtby as its bonafide top option.

“Because he’s No. 1 doesn’t mean you don’t go with [Grubauer] for a bit just so [Holtby] can settle his game,” Trotz said. “We’ll sit down with [goaltending coach Scott Murray] just to see what the best thing for the long haul is.”

The Capitals face the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, the second instalment of a California road trip that already includes a 4-0 loss to Anaheim on Tuesday and concludes in San Jose on Saturday.


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