The Capitals’ journey to the Stanley Cup Finals was not an easy one. From the loss of key players to injuries to stretches of tough losses and poor performances, the team faced adversity at various stages throughout the season. Starting goaltender Braden Holtby himself went through an uncharacteristically prolonged slump, in which he struggled to stop pucks from getting past him and prevent himself from losing confidence. Part of that was the adjustments and changes he made to his game to help himself and the team recover from his and their respective slumps, a growth that he talked about today at the Capitals’ Media Day in Las Vegas.
Holtby went through a stretch in the early part of 2018 (particularly in February) that saw the former fourth-round pick go 2-4-2 by February 22, with an .880 save percentage, and had already been benched two times. It was at that point (or very soon afterwards) that Head Coach Barry Trotz opted to start Grubauer, a decision that saw the Capitals finish the 2017-18 strongly. When asked about the team’s rough stretches this season at the team’s media day in Vegas, Holtby emphasized the team’s need to grow this season:
“We’ve grown a lot this year. From start to finish, that’s been our main goal to grow as a team….and we’ve put an emphasis on playing a team game every single game”
Holtby also talked about how the team pulled through tough stretches of the season, particularly how the team came together as a group. As Holtby’s slump progressed, so too did the team’s inability to get back into games in which they fell behind. While it took him some time to re-find his footing, Holtby picked up his elite form at the best time possible, and has been the case so many times over the last few seasons, when the Capitals needed him the most. With a tough Golden Knights team awaiting them on Monday night, the Caps will need their superstar goaltender more than ever.
By Michael Fleetwood