Washington’s Braden Holtby will get the start for Game 3 in Pittsburgh. He was yanked after surrendering 3 goals on just 14 shots through 2 periods. Philipp Grubauer didn’t fare much better, however, as he let in 2 of 9 himself in the final period. The decision to pull the reigning Vezina trophy winner was maligned following the game by commentators, such as the Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg who believed the move was “a sign of panic”. Holtby has struggled this post-season, not looking particularly strong in the first series against Toronto. His .911 save percentage these playoffs is certainly respectable but also easily his career low. It’s difficult to believe that his massive workload over the course of the season isn’t playing a factor in his drop-off in play. The netminder played an absurd 63 games this past season, which is difficult to defend from a coaching standpoint. His backup in Grubauer performed well above expectations, helping the duo capture the Jennings trophy. Additionally, the Capitals looked to be a lock for the post-season well before April, so why Holtby was subjected to yet another season of heavy lifting seems confusing. At least he didn’t play 73 games, like he did two seasons ago. One has to wonder if Carey Price, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Braden Holtby have all succumbed to fatigue to varying degrees, considering their individual struggles come playoffs. Regardless, Holtby will need to improve if Washington hopes to claw their way back into the series on the road.
- Anaheim forward Nick Ritchie and defenseman Sami Vatanen are both potential options for tonight’s game against Edmonton. Ritchie is out with the flu, and Vatanen has been out with an upper body injury since Game 1 versus Calgary in the last round. Both took the ice for the optional skate this morning, but no further information was provided. Vatanen had been replaced by Korbinian Holzer, who struggled in the season with a very poor 40.4 Corsi For percentage, taking a huge step backwards from the previous season in terms of driving possession. Ritchie had been replaced by Jared Boll, the heavy right-winger who accumulated an abysmal 39.3 CF% on the season – one of the league’s worst – to go along with his 0 goals through 51 games. The re-addition of Ritchie would be huge for a team that has had difficulty penetrating the wall that has been Cam Talbot.
- Washington prospect Jakub Vrana was scratched last night for the Hershey Bears. The 21 year-old left-winger is crafty with the puck and was projected to be an effective offensive force. The Czech has had trouble adjusting his style to the North American game, however. He was drafted 13th overall in 2014 and had a decent sophomore season when he played, earning 21 games up with the Capitals, notching 3 goals and 3 assists in that span. He was held pointless through 3 games in the Bears’ series against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Head coach Troy Mann was displeased with his unwillingness to engage physically and defend on the backcheck. His effort level is remarkably low for a prospect which was considered top-tier. Getting scratched at the AHL level of play doesn’t bode well for his future in the NHL, although stranger things have happened.