Washington Capitals: Samsonov injury adds pressure to Braden Holtby

When the NHL playoffs get underway, the Washington Capitals will be without their young surging netminder Ilya Samsonov.

The Washington Capitals landed in Toronto to resume the 2020 season, but they did so without their most productive goaltender from this season rookie Ilya Samsonov.  Samsonov is out for the remainder of the season with an undisclosed injury.

Samsonov had been the calming presence in goal this season for the Capitals as veteran Braden Holtby has suffered an abundance of ups and downs during the final year of his current contract.  It won’t be a shock if the Washington Capitals move on from Holtby in favor of the much cheaper Samsonov as the NHL salary cap is expected to leave plenty of teams cap-riddled next season.

Samsonov made 26 appearances this season, starting in 22 games.  He’s posted immaculate numbers; he’s provided the Capitals with a record of 16-6-2, posting a 2.55 goals-against average to go with a respectable .913 save percentage.  The 23-year old is a first-round choice of the Capitals from the 2015 draft, where they selected him with the 22nd overall pick.

In an article published by NHL.com, Washington head coach Todd Reirden expressed his disappointment of not having both of his top goaltenders during the playoff push.

“It’s disappointing for the player, disappointing for us,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “He’s a guy that’s a really good young prospect for us, so to not have him with us is disappointing. I thought he’s made some strides and put together a pretty good run this year, so to be without him is certainly disappointing, but the right thing to do is to leave him here and allow him to get treatment, so that he is ready to go next year when we have that opportunity to start playing hockey again.”

Reirden went on to say it’s an injury and not COVID-19 related.  Teams are unable to disclose injuries or illness due to the leagues’ return to play agreement.

It seems absurd to think Braden Holtby has something to prove.  He’s a 2018 Stanley Cup winner, the 2015-16 Vezina Trophy winner that is awarded to the leagues’ top goaltender. He’s a two-time All-Star and the William M. Jennings winner from 2016-17 awarded to the netminder with the fewest goals allowed having played a minimum of 25 games during the season.

Holtby is in the midst of the worst year of his career.  He’s 25-14-6 on the season with a Capitals team that led the Metropolitan Divison with 90 points, and 41 wins.  Holtby’s 3.11 goals-against average and .897 save percentage both rank as career-worsts.  For the Capitals to make a run they need Holtby to turn back the clock, and maybe this halt in play gave him a chance to hit the reset button, and that would be great for Washington.

Holtby is in the final year of his five-year deal worth $30.5 million may give way to Samsonov next season in Washington.

The Capitals decided to bring three goaltenders into the Toronto bubble.  Along with Holtby, the Capitals brought Pheonix Copley and rookie Vitek Vanecek.  Copley backed up Holtby last season, producing a 16-7-3 record with a save percentage of .905 in Washington.  Vanecek has yet to make an NHL appearance but went 19-10-1 with the Hershey Bears this season.