Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby is putting together his best season to date. Entering tonight’s game, Holtby leads the NHL in wins with 27, ranks second in goals-against average with 1.93, and third in save percentage with .932.
With his next win, he will be second in Caps franchise history in career wins by a Capitals goaltender, passing Don Beaupre (who finished with 128 wins) for the second most wins. It is a record that Olie Kolzig currently holds with 301 wins.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, Holtby is the fourth goaltender in the last 20 seasons to post a point streak of 20 games or more, joining Chris Osgood (1995-96: 19-0-2), Jose Theodore (2009-10: 20-0-3) and Roberto Luongo (2010-11: 16-0-5). Holtby’s 21-game point streak marks the longest by a Capitals goaltender since Theodore’s franchise-record 23-game point streak in 2009-10 (20-0-3). Holtby leads the NHL in wins (27), ranks second in GAA (1.93) and third in save percentage (.932).
The Capitals drafted Holtby back in the fourth round of the 2008 NHL draft with the 93rd overall pick. He made his NHL debut in November 2010, in a tie game against the Boston Bruins. The Capitals replaced Michael Neuvirth with Holtby with the score tied at 3 with about 10 minutes to go. Neuvirth was removed after he allowed three goals on five shots during the final period. Holtby secured four saves en route to a 5-3 win. Holtby made his first NHL start two days later against the Philadelphia Flyers and the Capitals won 3-2 in overtime. He got his first NHL shutout on March 9, 2011, stopping 22 shots as the Caps beat the Edmonton Oilers 5-0. He was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week ending March 13, 2011 after he posted a 4-0-0 record with a 1.05 goals-against average, a .965 save percentage, and one shutout. Despite the impressive numbers, he was sent back down to Hershey on March 27 of that year. During his 14 starts in Washington that season, he finished with a 10-2-2 record showing great promise for the future.
His first full-season with the Capitals was during the 2011-2012 campaign. The 2012 playoffs provided a golden opportunity for Holtby. With Tomas Vokoun and Neuvirth injured, Holtby was named the starting goaltender of the playoffs. Holtby was phenomenal as he led the Capitals to a first round upset over the defending Stanley Cup champions of the time: the Bruins in seven games. In the second round against the New York Rangers, he helped the Caps take the series to seven games before falling in the decisive Game 7. Holtby finished fifth in the league in postseason wins, third in goals-against average and save percentage and fifth in playoff minutes (922) and saves (429). He went all 14 postseason games without suffering back-to-back losses. Holtby also set a Capitals rookie record with 14 playoff games and tied a rookie record with seven wins in a single postseason. He became a favorite of the Caps faithful as fans began to chant “Holtby” after he made a good save and he earned the nickname, “Holtbeast.”
Holtby won 23 games the next two seasons and then put together his best season last year thanks to the hire of new goalie coach, Mitch Korn. Under Korn’s leadership, Hotlby earned career highs with 41 wins, a 2.22 goals-against average, and a .923 save percentage with nine shutouts. The 41 victories tied him with Olie Kolzig for the most wins in a single season by a Capitals goaltender.
While Olie Kolzig is first in the career wins category with 301 wins, don’t be surprised if Holtby eventually passes him with the career he’s been having thus far. Kolzig finished his career with 711 games played. So far, Holtby has played in 212 games. He has a chance to get to 301 wins faster.
By Michael Marzzacco