With 48 wins in the 2015-2016 regular season Braden Holtby matched the current standing NHL record held by legendary goalie Martin Brodeur. This is quite a feat, and one even the most durable and capable starting goaltenders may never equal. When Holtby fell short of eclipsing the record (due to the Capitals lackluster play down the final stretch of games) many thought that the Lloydminster, Saskatchewan native would have a chip on his shoulder about it. I think “they” were right.
It wasn’t Holtby that let Holtby down, it was pretty much the team in front of him. Given the pace of winning the Capitals maintained through more than half of the season he should have peaked out at around 53 wins, not ‘just’ 48. Alas, history is history and despite the stellar regular season, Holtby fell one win short of breaking the record. But that’s the regular season.
You get nothing for an incredible regular season, except heaps of criticism if that campaign does not culminate in lifting a big silver cup. Braden Holtby knows this. He doesn’t seem like the type that wants a participation medal or some consolation prize. Where he posted a 2.20 goals-against average, and a .922 save percentage in the regular season, Holtby has found another gear in this young postseason.
A compiliation of Holtby’s Finest Moments by RyanTheBeast29 – Subscribe to Ryan’s YouTube Channel!
How is this even possible? How does one of the NHL’s best young netminders get any better? We’re talking about a guy with a career GAA of 2.37, a pretty decent number but it was affected by the teams’ awful 2013-2014 season. He also boasts a career .921 save percentage which morphs to an incredible .940 lifetime in the playoffs. And now this first round 0.84 goals-against and .968 save percentage? Just looking at the stat line puts me in a glass case of emotion…that’s astounding, unreal, and ludicrous.
I’m not saying he should stop there, sure go for perfect…two shutouts in round one versus Philly not enough? Let’s see three versus Pittsburgh. Why rest here?
I get the feeling that Holtby has one loud and persistent voice in his head. A voice that drones on and on to “be great,” and to “earn your place.” This is a mental drive very few folks will ever attain. You can see it in his eyes throughout his pregame routines, visualizations, and the way he practices. There is an ever-present focus in his stare behind that goalie mask, and almost other-worldly sense of composure that couples so fluidly with his masterful physical gifts. Time and time again, shot after shot, chance after chance Braden Holtby has found a way to stay with the puck and/or recover when (rarely) he yields a rebound opportunity.
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I am thrilled with this kid, honestly. Some folks have their love affairs with Ovi’s strength and scoring, Kuzya’s flair, or Backie’s hands. I am constantly amazed to the point of swooning over the way Holtby can stop the puck. Traffic in front, no problem. Plucking a timely glove save through a swarm of sticks and bodies, eh…whatever. Butterfly to pad slide to back post slide and then finding the puck in front of him for a safe whistle, that’s just his bag baby. Hearts flutter, we get sweaty and awkward; yet he stays calm and cool. What a guy.
I don’t know what’s possible and impossible with this Washington Capitals team this year. We’ve seen so much winning, special teams success, scoring, and amazing goaltending that I have officially stopped trying to predict what these boys will do next. I want them to take it all the way, of course I do, to see it through. Nothing is given, stick to the script, and earn your right to claim the ultimate glory in the sport we so dearly love. I want all that and I know if there’s one guy that’s going to strap the team to his back and carry them to that finish line, it is Braden Holtby.
There’s no way around it. You NEED an incredible, unflappable, sometimes superhuman goalie to win the Cup. You also need that stellar penalty killing, a working power play, well-above average 5-on-5 scoring and possession, and solid team defense. You freaking need all of it…but if you polled 100 NHL coaches, GMs, and analysts the vast majority will tell you that you need amazing goaltending first and foremost to win it all.
So Mr. HoltBeast keep up the good work. You know that regular season stuff don’t matter, and ain’t nobody got time to worry about individual records anyway. I see your focus is on the real thing, the big silver thing, that thing we all want a piece of so badly. Help us Braden Holtby, you’re our only hope.
By Scott Zweibel