Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images
After a week off to reset before making a playoff push, Braden Holtby earned a nice bounce-back performance in a 6-3 victory against the New York Islanders, his 30th of the season.
Holtby may have allowed three goals but all of them came on the power play, an instance where the goalie is at a distinct disadvantage. He stopped 22 of 25 shots that came his way on Friday night, including 13 of 13 at even strength.
This was Holtby’s first game in 10 days and four games. Barry Trotz decided to give backup Philipp Grubauer the reins for a little while after Holtby went through a 1-5-2 stretch in his previous eight appearances, getting pulled in three of those. Holtby was pulled after allowing three goals on nine shots in the first 25:37 of the Capitals’ 4-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on March 6, his previous start.
Holtby went through the worst stretch of his career but he has always proven his ability to bounce back and he did so again tonight to put a division rival on the brink of elimination.
Holtby has had a down year by his standards, entering tonight’s contest with a 29-15-4 record in 48 games with a save percentage of .907 and a goals-against average of 3.03. While he was expected to regress due to the Capitals loss of blueline depth, those numbers are nowhere near where they need to be.
“It was a step in the right direction.”—Braden Holtby on his 22-save performance Friday night. #Caps pic.twitter.com/KwoZ9bAbKG
— Tarik El-Bashir⌨🎙🏒 (@TarikNBCS) March 17, 2018
In fact, Philipp Grubauer has a save percentage of .925 and a goals-against average of 2.26 with the same team in front of him, much better numbers than Holtby has.
Another reason Holtby has regressed this season is because last year’s Capitals’ goaltending coach Mitch Korn got promoted to Director of Goaltending while Scott Murray has stepped in his place. While Murray has had success with Grubauer so far, Korn had a great relationship with Holtby and helped him earn two Vezina Trophy nominations over the past two seasons and a Vezina Trophy in 2016 as the league’s top goaltender.
Now that Holtby has snapped out of his slump, the Capitals need Holtby to be the Holtby he was the past two seasons with the playoffs just around the corner. The Capitals have 11 games left until the postseason, including six against division rivals and five against teams currently in playoff position.
If the Capitals are going make a big run, Holtby needs to be the Capitals’ best player every night. Last season in the playoffs, Holtby had a .909 save percentage and a 2.47 goals against average in 13 games. The Capitals and Holtby likely cannot afford for those numbers to be down like that in the playoffs, especially with the depth the team lost last summer.
Every goaltender goes through a slump in his career and Braden Holtby just went through one. Now that he snapped out of it, he needs to flip the switch and play like the 40-win goalie that we are used to seeing from him.
The Capitals play the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center at 5 PM Sunday and Holtby will need to be sharp again with the Flyers being one of the teams that are currently chasing the Caps for the top spot in the division (by eight points) supposing that he starts.
He looked like the Holtby we know and love on Friday night; now, Holtby needs to play like that consistently for the rest of the season if the Capitals are going to have success, especially since the Capitals will likely be competing with the Penguins for the top spot in the Metropolitan.
By Harrison Brown
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You have to play Holtby or you can wreck his confidence….
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