Adam Oates has coached just one game behind the Capitals bench and already he is faced with his first dilemma.
When the Caps face the Winnipeg Jets in their home opener Tuesday night, does he go back to goaltender Braden Holtby, who allowed six goals on 34 shots against the TampaBay Saturday night?
Or does he turn to Michal Neuvirth, who is itching for the chance to prove he can unseat Holtby as the No. 1 goalie?
Oates will make that decision on Tuesday morning but there is a good chance he’ll give Holtby a chance to redeem himself.
In Saturday night’s loss in Tampa Holtby saw a pair of long-range shots sail past his catching glove. On Monday he said he never saw Marty St. Louis’ power-play blast in the third period that stood up as the game winner.
“There were a few bodies in front of me and that was basically the thing all night,” Holtby said. “Traffic was the difference.”
Holtby blamed himself for the first goal of the night, an Eric Brewer laser that beat him gloveside, and the fifth goal, a Cory Conacher goal off a feed from Teddy Purcell.
Asked about Holtby’s performance, Oates said he’s not placing blame on the 22-year-old netminder.
“We’re a group here,” Oates said.
For his part, Holtby said he’s anxious to turn the page on Saturday night’s loss. It’s something he did very well last spring when he went the entire playoffs without losing back-to-back games, when he went 7-7 with a 1.95 GAA and .935 save percentage.
In fact, Holtby has never lost back-to-back games in the NHL.
“That’s one thing I’ve been taught by my dad,” Holtby said. “Just to never have two bad games in a row.”
If Holtby plays against the Jets Tuesday night, look for Neuvirth, 23, to get his first start of the season either Thursday night at home against Montreal or Friday night on the road against New Jersey.