Washington Capitals Roster: 2015-2016 Goaltending Preview


Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Our position previews for the Washington Capitals start with arguably their greatest strength: their goaltending.

The Washington Capitals will field a deep and complete team during the 2015-2016 season. They’re a team that doesn’t have any huge flaws. If they have a position of strength, it’s definitely their goaltending. The Washington Capitals have extremely talented goalies between the pipes in Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer. Not only that, they have depth in Hershey. 

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The Capitals goaltending conversation starts with their franchise goaltender Braden Holtby. Fresh off a season that saw him breaking multiple franchise records and get a five-year deal with over $6,000,000 per year, Holtby’s ready to take the next step with the Caps. That next step? Doing what he did last year consistently.

"“That’s the next challenge on the list, doing that consistently, keep improving that way and see how far we can go,” Holtby said. “If our team is doing well, that makes individual things look better. That’s our main goal, just to win as many games as possible.” – Dump ‘N Chase"

The Washington Capitals put their faith in Holtby last season by naming him their starting goaltender before free agency even began. With the addition of head coach Barry Trotz came the addition of Trotz’s long-time goaltender guru Mitch Korn. Korn worked with Holtby to iron out his wrinkles and work on the mental aspects of goaltending. Holtby was a quick learner, finishing fourth in the Vezina Trophy voting. He led all NHL goalies in the playoffs in GAA (1.71) and save percentage (94.4%).

Holtby’s aggressiveness is his greatest asset. The Washington Capitals netminder is never afraid to challenge shooters and is very comfortable at the top of the crease. He takes away angles quickly and often forces shooters to have to make a perfect shot in order to beat him. Holtby’s confidence is a unique asset. He’s extremely confident in not just his own abilities, but the abilities of the team around him.

The Washington Capitals netminder is also very quick and has impressive reflexes. This allows him to save shots from close by. His high-danger save percentage (save percentage of shots that are around the crease) was the best in the NHL among goalies with at least 1,700 minutes played at even strength.

His greatest weakness is that he struggles with long-distance shots. Several factors could be playing into this. It’s certainly not his ability to pick up the puck because he can obviously do that on shots around the crease. It could be something mental.

The most likely factor is his height. He’s 6’1″, which is roughly average for a goaltender. Goalies like Ben Bishop (6’7″) have no trouble seeing around screens because they’re bigger than everyone. That’s not the case with Holtby. It’s hard to pin down precisely why he has trouble with long-distance shots, but it’s the one area of his game that he struggled at during last season.

SEE ALSO: Where does Holtby rank among the NHL’s starting goalies?

Holtby started in 71 games last season (most in the NHL). While Holtby sure didn’t look fatigued at the end of his 84 game season (including the playoffs), Holtby will likely be even better with more rest. Holtby didn’t have the luxury of rest last season. This season, he will that luxury, thanks to Philipp Grubauer.

Grubauer ensured his spot with the Washington Capitals last season when he did an impressive job as the Hershey Bears starting goaltender. He finished the season with a 2.30 GAA and 92.1% save percentage to go along with 27 wins. Grubauer isn’t at the level that Holtby is, but Grubauer gives the Washington Capitals a very capable backup and short-term replacement for Holtby should they need one.

Grubauer’s ability to prepare quickly should help him succeed as a backup. Twice last season, Grubauer had to make NHL starts with little time to prepare. One of them was against the Ducks (in which he led the team to a 3-2 shootout victory). The other was against the Islanders in the playoffs (which the Caps won as well).

Grubauer has limited NHL experience. He has started 16 regular season games for the Capitals and one playoff game. He has a 92.41% unadjusted save percentage and a 92.01% adjusted save percentage in those 17 games. He should prove to be a more than capable backup for the Capitals.

Dan Ellis and Justin Peters will provide depth in Hershey. Ellis will probably be the call-up should the Caps need a backup goalie for an extended period of time. Both Peters and Ellis have NHL experience.

The Washington Capitals are pretty set at goaltender. Holtby is the long-term starter. If they lose him, they’re screwed (just like any team that just lost their Vezina-caliber goalie would be). However, they’d probably be less screwed than other teams.

Next: Top 10 Goaltenders In Franchise History

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