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When the offseason officially began for all 32 NHL teams last summer, it was no secret that the Washington Capitals were looking for a goaltender or two. After giving paint to two inexperienced young goalies, former first-round pick Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek, with no real consistency or clear starter for the last two seasons, both were sacked (Vitek Vanecek via swap, Samsonov free). agency after not being advertised) and leaving Washington’s net literally empty (pun intended).
While trades were certainly one avenue General Manager Brian MacLellan could take, a free hand seemed like the best bet to find a solution since Stanley Cup Champion Darcy Kuemper couldn’t reach an agreement with the Colorado Avalanche, was he the undisputed best option in the open market; The Caps bosses dipped their feet in free agent waters and signed Kuemper to a five-year deal to become the team’s undisputed No.
To finish second in their goaltending depth chart, the Caps signed Charlie Lindgren, a veteran with just 29 NHL games (and five in 2021-22) with the Montreal Canadiens and St. Louis Blues, to a three-year contract .
After 39 games played, the Caps’ record is 21-13-5 and ranks 10th in wins. The statistics of the new tandem are as follows:
O Darcy Kuemperor: 23 GP (23 starts) / 10-9-3 record / 54 GA / 2.47 goals vs. average / .920 SV% / 3 SO / .609 quality start%
O Charlie Lindgren: 18 GP (16 starts) / 11-4-2 record / 44 GA / 2.57 clean sheets average / 0.914 SV % / 0 SO / 0.625 quality starting percentage
The Capitals goalie duo have provided a stability that the team had lacked for the last two seasons with two young goalies whose time to prove themselves as the number one goaltenders was up until the 2022 offseason. The caps’ average of 2.51 clean sheets ranks seventh among NHL clubs, and the duo has the team in fifth place with a save percentage of .913.
While Lindgren’s relative lack of NHL time was a number the Capitals were happy to overlook when signing him, the 29-year-old St. Cloud State player has proved a solid support when called up, as has his impressive run while Kuemper’s time is proving sidelined with an injury.
Kuemper, meanwhile, has filled the gap at number one admirably, recording his first two (of three total) shutouts in a Caps sweater in his first 20 games; Only four other goaltenders (at least 50 games played) in franchise history have recorded two or more shutouts in their first twenty games with Washington (Craig Billington, Jim Carey, Braden Holtby, and Rick Tabaracci).
With a reliable presence behind them, the Capitals’ game in front of the net has improved over the season and the team currently sits third in the Metropolitan Division after losing to the St. Louis Blues after their seventh loss in nine games on 11/17
While the season is almost halfway through and the Caps are in a much better position positionally, there’s still a lot of hockey to play. However, unlike the inconsistencies of the past two seasons, head coach Peter Laviolette now has two solid reliable backstops to deliver each night, both of which give the team a chance to win each night.
By Michael Fleetwood