During the 2012 playoffs Braden Holtby was phenomenal posting a .935 Save Percentage and nearly knocking off the king Henrik Lundqvist in the 2nd round. Washington Capital fans were extremely excited about their future number one goalie, who had been lights out since breaking into the Capitals crease. Coming out of the 2012 playoffs the Capitals felt good about their young netminder but as the Caps have been struggling so has Holtby and all of the sudden Holtby doesn’t look so perfect anymore.
Braden Holtby has suited up for 6 games but has only managed 2 wins and as bad as the Capitals have been- Holtby may be worse. Through 6 games he’s boasting a .879 Save Percentage and a 3.87 Goals Against Average on only 176 shots- not the kind of numbers you expect from your number one goaltender. The really sad thing is Holtby’s counterpart Michal Neuvirth hasn’t been much better. Neuvirth boasts one more start than Holtby but has just 1 win and has an equally poor .889 Save Percentage and a 3.05 Goals Against Average. The Capitals goaltenders are averaging 3 goals against each game and when the Caps snipers aren’t sniping that’s just not going to cut it. Since neither goaltender has gotten the job done early on, the starting job is wide open- after how well Holtby played in last years playoffs that is a major disappointment.
How disappointed with Holtby’s play have the Capitals been? They were rumoured to be after goaltender Roberto Luongo to help fix their goaltending situation which would land Holtby on the bench for the next few years. Sure Luongo would help mentor Braden Holtby who is only in hist 1st full NHL season but there wouldn’t be much room for him to grow. But the plans for Luongo fell through and the Capitals- at least for now- are sticking with Holtby and Neurvirth.
Let’s forget about Neurvirth for a moment as he’s in his 4th season between the pipes for the Capitals and hasn’t been able to get the job done, making most people believe that Braden Holtby is the future for the Capitals.
Although Holtby is having a rough start to the season let’s remember he’s still the same goaltender who out-dueled Tim Thomas and helped defeat the defending Stanley Cup Champions the Boston Bruins in the first round and nearly knocked off Lundqvist and the New York Rangers. He’s got skill and lots of spunk- being able to battle with those 2 great goalies through a gruelling playoff round is nothing to write off. But not playing anywhere during the lockout may have taken it’s toll on the rookie goaltender who opened the 2013 season surrendering 6 goals and posting a .824 Save Percentage. So far this season Holtby has looked average and his glove hand has come under some scrutiny as it’s been a target for goals early on. He has shown flashes of last years playoffs when he stoned Sidney Crosby but for the most part he’s been an after thought.
Right now the Capitals have been going back and forth between Holtby and Neurvirth, what they need to do is give Holtby a string of games and an opportunity to re-find his game from the playoffs. Goalies can’t get into their proper groove when they’re playing one game then sitting on the bench the next. Give Holtby a string of 10 games and let him work his magic, try and get Alex Ovechkin to score goals again and watch the goaltending issues in Washington disappear.
Adam Oates has more confidence in Holtby right now and he had a much better game against the Florida Panthers on Sunday, where he posted a Shutout. It’s time to give Holtby a chance to regain his lights out play and become the Washington Capitals starter. Since this is his first “full season” in the NHL it can be expected he’s been having some issues, but given the chance Braden Holtby will be just fine.