Goaltending is the one of the greatest equalizers in the NHL.
Great play at the position will mask a lot of flaws and carry an average team a long way. Bad play at the position can sink any Stanley Cup contender in the blink of an eye. It wins coaches the Jack Adams Award, and can then get them replaced one year later.
As we head into the second half of the 2021-22 NHL season there are three playoff teams that have some goaltending situations that could dramatically impact their chances. Let’s dig into them a little bit.
Does Washington need an upgrade?
Goaltending is not the only issue for the Capitals right now, but it is something that is probably worth looking at for two reasons.
- It was a question mark when the season began and nobody has really taken a significant step forward.
- It might be the easiest of their current flaws to fix while making the biggest impact.
The question here is how much faith you have in the duo of Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek to go through the playoffs. Samsonov has been seen as their goalie of the future for several years now, but he has not really taken a big step forward, and his play over the past two months has slipped. At the same time, Vanecek’s play has been by far the better of the two since the start of December. But is that good enough for what the Capitals are going to need?
As a team, the Capitals’ all situations save percentage is 17th in the league and was 19th a season ago with the same duo. Not terrible, but not exactly game-changing, either.
The most intriguing option for the Capitals here is making a push for Marc-Andre Fleury, who will almost certainly be made available by a Chicago Blackhawks team that is going nowhere fast. Not only would it make sense from a hockey standpoint, but the potential storylines it could lead to if we get a Capitals-Pittsburgh Penguins playoff matchup would be off the charts. Fleury can still be a top-tier goalie and would give the Capitals a clear upgrade in net.
Another thought: What about a reunion with Braden Holtby? Holtby has had a strong season in Dallas, but the Stars are far from a lock to make the playoffs, still have a crowded goalie situation, and Holtby would be a cheaper (both in terms of salary and assets) should he be made available.