The Washington Capitals finally broke their seven-game losing streak, but there still is plenty of concern on whether the Stanley Cup champions can re-establish themselves as top candidates to re-capture the title this season. While many point to fatigue as the team played a lot of extra games in the playoffs last season, there are even bigger concerns, including the goaltending.
Perhaps one of the biggest area of concern, according to The Athletic’s Scott Burnside (subscription required) is the play of their goaltending, most particularly the play of Braden Holtby, who is posting another disappointing regular season. Despite an impressive Stanley Cup championship run during the playoffs, Holtby struggled during the regular season with a 2.99 GAA and a .907 save percentage. This year has been even more disappointing as the veteran has a 3.10 GAA and a .905 save percentage. He ranks 19th, among goalies with 20 or more appearances, at even-strength save percentage with a .918.
“The goalies have just lost it here,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. “They’re flailing away at it, letting in bad goals at bad times, stuff like that.”
- Seth Rorabaugh of The Athletic (subscription required) writes that the impressive play of Pittsburgh Penguins’ newly acquired center Nick Bjugstad could eventually bring about head coach Mike Sullivan’s dream of spreading out Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel over three lines. The belief is that the additions of Bjugstad as well as Jared McCann should open up multiple possibilities on offense which neither Derick Brassard or Riley Sheahan did. “Nick Bjugstad is a guy that’s shown an ability to score in this league,” Sullivan said of a player whose career season of 2014-15 saw him score 24 goals and 43 points in 72 games. “He’s a 45- to 50-point guy. He has more upside, he’s still young. He brings more size to our team and a whole lot of skill.”
- News & Observer’s Chip Alexander asks the question ’What was Paul Fenton thinking?’ when referring to what so far looks to be a steal of a trade when the Carolina Hurricanes acquired Nino Niederreiter from Fenton and the Minnesota Wild for Victor Rask. Niederreiter has sparked the team with five goals in five games as the team has gone 3-1-1 in that span, including a big victory over Vegas Friday, while Rask has just one assist in Minnesota over four games. Niederreiter seems to have found a home on the team’s first line next to Sebastian Aho and veteran Justin Williams.