If Braden Holtby is hopping mad about being replaced by Jaroslav Halak as the Capitals’ No. 1 goaltender he’s doing an excellent job of hiding it.
“The move made sense for us,” Holtby said of the trading deadline trade that sent goaltender Michal Neuvirth to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Halak.
“I think we all see it as a good thing for our team. You bring a guy like Jaro in, you want to see what he can do to help the team. This is a normal situation for a goalie. I knew what I signed up for. Sometimes we play, sometimes we don’t.
“As long as he’s giving us a chance whenever he plays, that’s all we can ask for. I’m just trying to be a positive influence if I’m not playing, and try to do whatever I can when I am.”
It’s entirely possible that Holtby, 24, saw this coming. Since appearing in 24 of the Capitals’ first 29 games, Holtby has seen action in just 17 of their last 38 games and carries a 19-14-3 record into the final 15 games of this season.
Halak, 28, has gone 1-2-0 in his first three starts for the Caps, allowing seven goals.
“Obviously, we have a lot of confidence in Holtby,” Caps coach Adam Oates said. “He played great; he had two shutouts [Jan.25 and Feb. 8]. But Jaro came in and played well and gave us a chance two times in a row, so we went with him.”
If Holtby was disappointed with Halak getting the call in Pittsburgh on Tuesday he didn’t voice it.
“This isn’t personal,” he said. “This is a team thing. Being a goalie, you have two guys. One guy plays and one guy doesn’t. It’s the reality of things and you never take that personally. This is an easier situation than three goalies.”
That was the situation for five weeks in December and January, when the Capitals recalled Philipp Grubauer from the Hershey Bears and played him 16 times in 21 games while Holtby and Neuvirth waited their turns.
While Grubauer appears to have a bright future in Washington, Halak is playing for his next contract. In the final year of a deal that pays him $3.75 million, Halak is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Holtby is signed through next season at $1.85 million and says he has no concerns about his future in Washington.
“I see Jaro coming in here with success in his career and I want to learn from him as opposed to a rivalry thing,” Holtby said.
“I want to be here as long as I can. It’s a great organization with a great staff, great teammates. It’s not even a question in my mind.
“I want to win a Stanley Cup here. That’s my goal. There are going to be bumps along the road. You don’t want them to happen, but at the same time you use them to your advantage.
“You want them because you know they’re going to make you better in the long run. You keep fighting for everything. That’s why we like being professional hockey players, to keep fighting through adversity to get better.”