Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby is probably slightly disappointed as he looks toward his team’s first game of the season against the Montréal Canadiens on Thursday night.
Holtby, who had recently received one of the three stars of the month awards, would have faced off against Carey Price, the reigning best goaltender and player in the league. However, Price will be out for at least six weeks with a right knee injury, so Holtby will have to wait to compare himself to Canada’s gold medal goaltender.
The native of Lloydminster, Saskatchewan has become one of the league’s best goaltenders, providing stability in net that the Capitals have not had for years, perhaps not since Olaf Kolzig. He has become good enough for observers to consider him as Canada’s second best goalie, surpassing names such as Marc-André Fleury and Roberto Luongo. With the World Cup of Hockey coming to Toronto in 2016, he is also playing for a spot to be on Team Canada.
It would have been quite the matchup, with Canada’s best two goaltenders going head-to-head in a showdown between two of the league’s best teams. Instead, Mike Condon will reprise his role as the interim starter for the Canadiens, who have complete faith in him. He holds a 2.11 Goals Against Average going into Thursday, while Price is currently sitting on 2.06, so things have remained much of the same with either goaltender starting. With that one key matchup absent for the game, the showdown between Canada’s best goaltenders will have to wait.
Tough Matchups for Canadiens’ Defenders
With Evgeny Kuznetsov having a breakout season, that is just one more on a long list of threats that Montréal will have to watch out for. The good news is that Montréal will have all of their best defencemen in the lineup to try to contend against those offensive weapons, as Alexei Emelin will not receive supplemental discipline for his interference hit on Columbus Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert, and Nathan Beaulieu has not received a concussion from his fight against Nick Foligno.
P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov will most likely match up against Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, while Beaulieu and Jeff Petry will most likely be watching out for Kuznetsov and his line mates.
Both teams are first and second respectively in goal differential, so their matchup will be that much more unpredictable. It will definitely be Condon’s toughest test so far, as he has never faced firepower as intense and Washington’s. Whichever team can minimize the opposition’s high-quality chances while taking full advantage of their own will have the best chance of winning.