Ilya Samsonov will start against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Super Bowl Sunday.
The nationally telecast home game on NBC would normally be a slam-dunk start for Braden Holtby. However, after defeating the Ottawa Senators 5-3 Friday and winning 11-straight decisions, Samsonov will receive consecutive starts for the second time this season.
Coach Reirden confirms it will be Ilya Samsonov in net to face the Penguins tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/PK6ADEF0ic
— RMNB (@russianmachine) February 1, 2020
“We looked at some different things,” head coach Todd Reirden said after practice. “I liked a lot of parts of his game yesterday and I think it again is another challenge for him. First game against Pittsburgh this year and we’ll see how he does.”
Samsonov almost hit a coach with a deflected puck and then just kept trying to do it again. 😂 pic.twitter.com/B418INbgmq
— elizabeth (@of_elk) February 1, 2020
Part of the decision may be out of necessity. The Pittsburgh Penguins are suddenly breathing down the Capitals’ necks. With one game in hand, the second-place Penguins have clawed back into the Metropolitan Division race, sitting six standings points behind Washington.
The Russian rookie is 16-2-1 in 20 games this season as well as a 2.12 goals against average and a .925 save percentage. Samsonov has not lost an appearance since a November 15 game against the Montreal Canadiens where he gave up four goals.
Samsonov has won each of his last 11 decisions, a streak that first began on Nov. 30.
— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) February 1, 2020
Meanwhile, Holtby gave up three first-period goals and five overall against the Nashville Predators on Wednesday, including a back-breaking shorthanded goal to Ryan Johansen where he attempted an aggressive pass up the ice on a powerplay.
“It’s just a play that can’t happen,” Holtby said in the locker room after the game. “It’s what killed us.”
The Lloydminster, Saskatchewan-native is in the midst of one of the worst stretches of his career, losing eight of his last 13 outings and giving up three-or-more goals in 10 of those appearances.
Holtby is in the final year of a five-year deal. The Capitals and Holtby’s representation have agreed not to talk about a new deal until the end of the season. Holtby has stated several times how much he would like return to the team.
“It’s hard to talk about it,” Samsonov said in a recent Russian interview. “I have a good relationship with Holtby and we have a lot of respect for each other. I think it is very difficult for him now because of this situation with the contract. We all try to support him. He is our number one.”
Headline photo: NBC Sports Washington
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