In This Corner (Column): Braden is a Holt-beast
On July 1, 2011, it appeared that Braden Holtby would be the Washington Capitals’ backup goaltender.
Only 24 hours later, the Capitals inked Tomas Vokoun to a one year, $1.5 million contract.
With the addition of a seasoned goalie in 35-year-old Vokoun, there was no place on the big bench for 22-year-old Holtby. And just like that, Holtby was demoted to starter for the Hershey Bears, Washington’s American Hockey League affiliate.
While it is a position to be proud of, it’s definitely not what Holtby deserved after his strong National Hockey League appearances the season before.
In the 2010-11 season, Holtby appeared in 14 games and went 10-2-2. He had a save percentage of 0.934 and a goals against average of 1.79.
In a series of unfortunate, goaltender-related incidents, the Capitals have lost both of their top goaltenders in Vokoun and 23-year-old Michal Neuvirth.
Now is Holtby’s time to shine as the playoff hero.
In seven regular season appearances, he went 4-2-1, had a 0.922 SV percent and a 2.49 GAA, and recorded his first NHL shutout March 25 in a 3-0 win over the Minnesota Wild.
In the playoffs, Holtby has been nothing short of fantastic. In just three games, he has, arguably, out-shone Boston’s veteran Tim Thomas.
So far, during the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Holtby has stopped 97 of the 103 shots he’s faced and acquired a penalty.
With an age difference of 16 years, most people expected Holtby to flop under the pressure of the playoffs.
But even though Thomas is the veteran in the NHL, Holtby is no rookie to playoff play. He’s played nine playoff games with the Bears over the past two seasons. Holtby had an overall record of 4-5.
So far, Holtby has risen to the top and proved that he is capable of carrying the load of being a starter, and in the playoffs no less.
Those who have compared him to New Jersey Devils netminder Martin Brodeur are spot on, in terms of playing style.
Holtby learns fast and has shown improvement even as this short series as gone on. He adjusts to the tempo of the game and has an even head on his shoulders.
Despite starting the season in the AHL, Holtby has proved that he belongs in the NHL. Between his intricate and complex pre-game superstitions, and his strong play in the playoffs, he’s put himself on the map and is in Washington to stay.