With a little more than two minutes remaining in the 3rd period of game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals, a Vegas Golden Knight defensemen shot the puck from the neutral zone into the Washington Capitals zone. The puck careened around the boards but then took a fluky bounce. The puck ended up darting net across the crease right to former Washington Capital Cody Eakin, who had an easy pass right to Alex Tuch across the slot for a wide open net.
As that puck shot across the crease right to Eakin, I saw it all happening. I expected it to happen: a pass to Tuch for a tap-in goal to suck the life out of the Capitals. There was no doubt in my mind that the game was about to be tied.
Is that pessimistic? Sure, but that’s from years of training. But it didn’t happen. Braden Holtby, in all of his beastly glory, reached back with his paddle and knocked the puck down and smothered it.
It was obviously a monumental save, as the Capitals went on to win their very first Stanley Cup Final game in the franchise’s 44 year history. But there’s a bit more to this than just a big save. It was basically a summation of the Capitals current Stanley Cup run.
In the past, that shot goes in the goal 100% of the time and the series looks dire. That’s just what happened to the old Capitals. But just like the rest of this postseason run, the hockey gods seem to be smiling on the boys in red. From Lars Eller’s game 3 overtime winning goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets, to the Caps beating their rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins in 6 games; to reeling off two-straight wins against the deadly Tampa Bay Lightning to take the series in 7 games; something is different with this team.
Jay Beagle said after the game, “Holts just makes the save of the year. Maybe the save of a lifetime.” It’s doubtful you’ll find a Capitals fan out there that would disagree. If the Capitals are able to do “the thing” and win it all, people will look back on Holtby’s save and see it as the most important save in Capitals’ history.
But for now, it’s just symbolic. As important as that save and win were, the series is still only tied in 1-1 as the Caps head back home potentially without their best player in Evgeny Kuznetsov. Nothing is written in stone or on a Cup just yet. But whatever has been plaguing the Capitals in the past has seemed to end. It seems to have ended with a hard knock of a paddle before being smothered.
By Luke Adomanis