Washington's goaltending mess
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The Washington Capitals are finding out that sometimes, goaltenders are just like quarterbacks -- if you think you have two starters, you really have none.

The Capitals have alternated Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth this season, but they have seen the same results, over and over.

Holtby started the first two games of the season but gave up 10 goals on 73 shots. He didn't see the net for the rest of January.

Neuvirth started the next five games but was only slightly better. He gave up 15 goals in 303 minutes and went 1-3-1.

Thursday's game against Pittsburgh was a microcosm of the season -- Neuvirth started and shut out the Penguins through one period but gave up two goals in a six-minute stretch in the second period before being pulled for Holtby. Holtby promptly let in three goals in the final 3:37 of the period and the Caps lost 5-2.

Together, the duo has gone 2-8-1 with a 3.73 GAA and an .875 SV%. The GAA ranks last in the NHL, while the SV% is tied for 28th.

And they have been consistently awful. Holtby has given up three or more goals in four of his five appearances, while Neuvirth has done the same in five of seven (he likely would have given up more than two Thursday if he hadn't been yanked).

Holtby's performance is particularly disappointing after he replaced Tomas Vokoun at the end of last season, beat the Rangers to clinch a playoff spot in the final game of the regular season and posted a 1.95 GAA in 14 postseason starts.

Vokoun was traded to the Penguins in the offseason, leaving Holtby as the presumed starting, but that lasted all of two games before the team had to turn to Neuvirth, a career backup with a 2.67 GAA and .908 SV%.

Meanwhile, Vokoun has gone 3-1 with a 2.09 GAA, .927 SV% and one shutout in five appearances (four starts).

Holtby showed signs of last season's form when he beat the Flyers on Feb. 1 with 29 saves on 31 shots for his only win of the season, but he followed the up by giving up nine goals on 43 shots over his next two games. Still, with Neuvirth also struggling, Washington's No. 1 goaltender spot again appears to be Holtby's to lose.

Based on how he has played this season, Holtby will probably lose it quickly, but he still has a greater fantasy potential than Neuvirth for desperate owners looking to take a chance on one of Washington's turnstiles.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.

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