Holtby Holds Court -- On Game Day

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel

It’s been more than a decade since the Caps had a netminder who was willing to sit in his stall after a morning skate and chat with the media on the day of a game in which he starts. Several goalies around the league don’t like to speak on the morning of their starts, and I understand and respect that. Several goalies around the league are willing to field a few questions after coming off the ice, and I applaud that. Caps rookie Braden Holtby falls into the latter category. The Caps’ starting goaltender tonight comes into the contest against Carolina with a 4-0-1 record in his last five NHL appearances to go along with an 0.62 GAA and a .977 save pct. Those are otherworldly numbers for any goaltender, but particularly for a 21-year-old rookie who is a second-year pro and who has tended the twine for a total of 493 minutes at the NHL level. Holtby made his NHL debut on Nov. 5, coming into a 3-3 game in the middle of the third period and earning the win when fellow freshman John Carlson supplied the game-winner late in the final frame. Holtby made his first NHL start two days later, defeating the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 on a Mike Green overtime goal. After a 3-2 overtime loss to the Sabres in Buffalo on Nov. 13, Holtby endured a pair of rugged outings. He was dented for three goals on just five shots in nine minutes of work in his next start, a 5-0 loss in Atlanta on Nov. 19. On Nov. 22, Holtby was expecting to back-up Neuvirth in New Jersey, but instead wound up starting when his partner tweaked something in the morning skate. Holtby hung in for all 60 minutes against the Devils, but surrendered five goals on just 23 shots. Days later, Holtby was sent back to AHL Hershey. He had earned his first two NHL wins, but he brought back a rather unsightly 3.84 GAA and an .845 save pct. That seems like a long time ago now. Recalled from Hershey in the middle of a January road trip when both Neuvirth and Varlamov were less than 100 percent, Holtby made three straight starts for the Caps. He erased any bad taste that may have lingered from his last two November starts by earning a 2-1 win over the Islanders and a 4-1 win over the Maple Leafs in a Hockey Night in Canada contest. After losing a 2-1 shootout game against the Rangers at Verizon Center on Jan. 24, Holtby was again sent back to Hershey. Back with the Caps again last week once he recovered from an injury suffered in a Feb. 23 AHL game, Holtby was expected to make one start this week. But Neuvirth got nicked on the mask with a Nate Thompson shot on Monday night in Tampa, and Holtby came in to blank the Bolts over the final 45 minutes. Then he authored his first NHL shutout on Wednesday against Edmonton. Coming into tonight’s start against the Hurricanes, Holtby carries a stretch of 116:41 of shutout hockey. He has allowed one or zero goals in each of his last five NHL appearances. And he doesn’t mind the odd question from us writerly types on days in which he is slated to start. So I threw him these three this morning. I guess when you were in the Western League, you might have had a bit of a book on other players in the league? “Not necessarily a book, but it’s not too hard to remember them. That’s the only thing you’re focused on is hockey and the other teams. Usually you know people’s tendencies, but you still have to react.” Coming up to the AHL and then the NHL, is it more that – reacting – and just dealing ad relying on your instincts and maybe three or four years from now having a book on some guys? “Yeah, especially in the AHL because you maybe know of four or five guys and you’ve maybe played against two of them on a team. So you’re facing a lot of guys that you’ve never seen before. You’ve just got to go and do it, and react a bit more. “It helps you in the long run because you’re not cheating towards anything or getting away with things that you can do because you know people’s tendencies. You have to play everything honestly. So when [Edmonton’s Andrew] Cogliano comes at you [on a breakaway] the other night, what’s going through your head in those few seconds? “He’s coming with a lot of speed, so I just wanted to get out far enough that I could match it coming back, and if he did make a deke I’d be able to stay with him or if he shot I’d be right on top of him, not giving him much.”

next up:

No Easy Nights

January 14, 2013

It has been 10 years since the NHL’s last expansion; the 2000-01 season brought the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild into the league. That completed a flurry of expansion in which the Original 21 morphed into the Original 30 in a decade’s time. Caps center Jason Arnott began his NHL

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