Adam Oates said it Thursday night in Pittsburgh following the Capitals’ 5-3 loss to the Penguins.
George McPhee said it Friday morning during practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
The Capitals will need better goaltending if they hope to climb out of their 2-8-1 start and begin climbing the Eastern Conference standings.
No one knows this more than Braden Holtby, who will get the start Saturday night against the Florida Panthers [7 p.m., Comcast SportsNet]. In five appearances this season Holtby has allowed 21 goals in a little more than 13 periods of work. That includes a shaky performance in Pittsburgh where he allowed three goals in a dreadful second period for the Capitals.
Holtby’s goals-against average [4.74] is the worst among NHL goaltenders with four or more starts and his save percentage [.857] ranks fifth worst among all goalies.
“Everyone in here knows they can be better,” Holtby said. “That’s in the past now. We have to move forward. Looking at how we played in the past isn’t going to help us at this point. We’ve dwelled on that long enough. Right now we’re focusing on the next game and doing the little things we need to do and play a solid game.”
Oates said he seeks the advice of his coaching staff, including goaltending coach Dave Prior, before choosing a starting goaltender, but ultimately the decision is his. He acknowledged it becomes a more difficult decision when both of his goaltenders are struggling.
In seen appearances Michal Neuvirth is 1-4-1 with a 3.05 GAA and .889 sace percentage.
“You just got to fight through this,” said Neuvirth, who was pulled after allowing two goals on 11 shots by the Penguins. “You've got to go through tough times sometimes and you just got to fight through it.”
Oates said all goalies go through rough patches, but not often at the same time.
“They go in slumps, too, like everybody else,” Oates said. “It's just that it's more magnified at times.”
Like when a team is off to one of its worst starts in history and is the only team in the NHL that has not scored four goals in a game this season. The Caps rank 18th in goals for  and tied for last with goals allowed .
“You can't blame it on one person. I don't,” he said. “Unfortunately, the goals are untimely right now for our team. But that's something the team has to get through. We have to help him, and he has to help us at times. But it's still the team.”
Holtby said he hope to change the disturbing trend – not to mention a few opinions -- Saturday night at home against the Panthers.
“That’s my profession,” he said. “It’s frustrating when you look at the amount of goals that have been scored. We need a little more mental toughness, everyone making up for each other’s mistakes and that includes myself.”
Laich skating again:Forward Brooks Laich, sidelined since the start of training camp with a groin injury suffered in Switzerland, skated on his own before practice, pushing a hockey net back and forth the length of the rink. He participated in practice as well.
“I’m just hoping he can get in the lineup soon,” Caps GM George McPhee said “It’d be nice to have him. Everybody has their injuries but we started with two guys out in Laich [groin] and [defenseman Dmitry] Orlov [concussion] before we even got going.
“Certainly Brooks would be a big help right now but we’ll have to wait a little bit longer. He’s improving and hopefully we’ll see him soon.”
McPhee said Orlov is still at least three weeks away from returning and defenseman Jack Hillen [shoulder] is another 6-8 weeks. “That’s a significant injury,” he said, failing to elaborate.
Erskine returning: Having served his three-game suspension for elbowing Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, Caps defenseman John Erskine will return to the lineup Saturday night against Florida. Meanwhile, Tom Poti said he’s day-to-day with an upper body injury. Oates has a decision to make on his blue line, where both Roman Hamrlik and rookie Tomas Kundratek struggled against the Penguins. One or both could be pulled from the lineup, depending on the availability of Poti.