When Up Against Holtby, Goalies Rise to the Occasion

Holtby1-640x424_Patrick McDermitt
Patrick McDermott

Prior to the Washington Capitals playoff series against the Flyers, it was pointed out that Braden Holtby had an excellent Save Percentage [SV% = saves / shots against] (in the high .930 range), a stellar Goals Against Average [GAA is the mean of goals allowed per game] (under 2.00) but a losing record (in the playoffs, prior to the series against the Flyers). 

Prior to this most recent playoff series, Holtby’s won lost record was 16-18. His playoff Save Percentage is actually better than many of the goalies whose teams have gone deeper in the playoffs, including Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, Corey Crawford, and Ben Bishop.

As a rule, the Caps have not scored many goals during the games when he has been in net. The opposing goalies seem to put in stellar performances when playing the Caps. In a sour mood, after watching former Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth give life into what was looking to be a sweep of a first round series, I started to think that the best playoff performances by goalies seems to be from the goalies who oppose Braden Holtby.

Here is a year by year summary of the goaltending the Caps have faced in each playoff run dating back to 2012.


In Round 1, the Caps faced the Boston Bruins who had Timmy Thomas between the pipes. In that series, which went the full 7 games, the Caps advanced winning 4 games to 3. All seven games were 1 goal games, including 2 losses in overtime.  Thomas had a Save Percentage of .923 in that series.

In Round 2, the Caps faced the New York Rangers who had Henrik Lundqvist in goal. The Caps ending their season by losing that series 4 games to 3. Lundqvist had a Save Percentage of .927.

Overall, for the playoff run, Holtby had a Save Percentage of .935 which was better than either of the goalies for his opponents. However, the Caps faced more shots on goal during the two rounds, facing a total of 459 shots as opposed to 386 shots faced by Thomas and Lundqvist combined.


The Caps faced the New York Rangers in Round 1 where, again, they lost the series in 7 games. Once again, they faced Henrik Lundqvist who was protecting the Rangers net. During that season, Lundqvist had a Save Percentage of .947 which was aided by the shutouts he had for the last two games. Holtby had a Save Percentage of .922 which is generally considered better than average but not as good as Lundqvist’s for that series. Lundqvist faced 214 shots while Holtby faced 205.


The Caps faced the New York Islanders where they won the series in 7 games. The Islanders used Jaroslav Halak in goal most of the time, although Michal Neuvirth came into relieve Halak for one game.  As Holtby missed one game due to illness, this analysis will omit the game that he missed. In the games he played head to head against Holtby, Halak had a Save Percentage of .933. Michal Neuvirth faced 6 shots in the game he played and gave up no goals.

The Caps then faced the New York Rangers, this regular playoff match-up will finally take a break in 2016! Once again, Lundqvist was in goal for them and, and after another 7 game series, the Caps again lost to the Rangers, 4 games to 3 – including 2 overtime losses.

Lundqvist had a Save Percentage of .946 for the Rangers. For the entire playoff run, Holtby had a Save Percentage of .944. Holtby faced 412 (stopping 389 shots) shots while Lundqvist faced 403 shots (stopping 381).

henrik-lundqvist-and-braden-holtby-handshake-5-13 msg photos
MSG Photos


The Caps faced the Philadelphia Flyers in Round 1 of the playoffs, where they won the series 4 games to 2, after winning the first three games. The Flyers started Steve Mason in the first three games where he ended up with a Save Percentage of .852, a significantly lower SV% than we’ve seen in this article. Mason had allowed a few soft goals, the one getting the greatest attention was a shot sent from Jason Chimera delivered from center ice that landed in the back of the net. Looking for a spark and in the midst of facing elimination, the Flyers’ coach, Dave Hakstol replaced Mason with Michal Neuvirth starting with Game 4 on his home ice. He was the winner in Game 4, with a 2-1 score and he was exceptional in Game 5 with a 2-0 score but finally allowed the Caps to get behind him in Game 6 by a 1-0 score. He had limited the Caps to 2 goals in the last 3 games – where he was under consistent fire from the Caps in Games 5 and 6. He had an amazing Save Percentage of .981, saving 103 shots in 105 attempts. Holtby, meanwhile, had a Save Percentage of .968 in 154 shots.

holtby and neuvirth derik hamilton usa today sports
Derik Hamilton/USA Today Sports


Braden Holtby has achieved a playoff Save Percentage of .940 and now has a 20-20 playoff record overall, after the Round 1 series of 2016. The overall Save Percentage against the Caps, with Holtby in goal, is .935. Holtby has faced 1,230 shots, stopping 1,150. Meanwhile, his opponents had faced 1,207 shots. This year, the Caps’ defense was better able to limit shots on goal, as opposed to past years, with Holtby seeing around 150 shots in the series, as opposed to 200 plus shots in previous series. Granted, this series was only 6 games as opposed to their customary 7 games. But 154 shots in 6 games would project to less than 200 shots for 7.

This table summarizes each of our opposing goalies SV% during the playoffs, dating back to 2012. It certainly does appear that when teams face the Capitals and Braden Holtby, their goalies rise to the occasion.


By Diane Doyle

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3 Responses to When Up Against Holtby, Goalies Rise to the Occasion

  1. John says:

    This is all interesting info, but what about the opposing goalies’ save % during the regular season and when they weren’t facing the Caps in the playoffs. This is incomplete data at best.

  2. sisquoc says:

    “But 154 shots in 6 games would project to less than 200 shots for 7.”


    (not the only one; just the most egregious error)

  3. Pingback: Yet Again, Holtby Finds Another Gear in the Postseason | Washington Capitals News | NoVa Caps

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