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Caps GM McPhee on Holtby as playoff starter: “We have no choice”

Apr 9, 2012, 1:37 PM EDT

Braden Holtby

There were enough signs at Monday’s Capitals practice — Michal Neuvirth and Tomas Vokoun were absent, Dany Sabourin was recalled from AHL Hershey — to suggest that Braden Holtby will start in goal when Washington opens the playoffs on Thursday in Boston.

(Heck, the Globe and Mail all but reported it.)

To hear George McPhee explain it, Holtby will likely be the starter…by default.

“We have no choice,”McPhee told Stephen Whyno of the Washington Times. “If the other guys aren’t ready to go, he’s playing.”

While that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, McPhee did say he has some faith in the 22-year-old.

“[Holtby] can handle it,” he said. “We’ve had other goalies do it that were at the same age or younger.”

But will Holtby handle it? Here’s more, from the Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg:

Some believe Holtby has the talent, having gone 10-2-2 (including 7-0-1 against opponents who made the playoffs that year) last season with a 1.79 goals against average while posting a 0.934 save percentage. To win a Cup, a team has historically needed a netminder capable of putting up a .925 save percentage over 600 shots, which most NHL goalies can provide. But how likely is Holtby to do it?

Holtby has played 21 games at the NHL level, saving 487 of 524 shots for a save percentage of .929. Observed talent is not actual talent, so we can estimate with 95 percent confidence his “true talent” level is between .903 and .949. The huge spread is because of the small sample size of his career, which illustrates that we just don’t know how good Holtby will or won’t be at the NHL level. Since the 1997-98 season, rookie goaltenders in the playoffs have posted a .912 save percentage.

Inexperienced goalies are always a dicey proposition, especially in the playoffs. For every stellar performance (like Corey Crawford in Chicago last year) there seems to be an equally unimpressive effort (like Sergei Bobrovsky, who appeared in six games for Philly last postseason, going 0-2 with an .877 save percentage and a 3.43 GAA.)

Heading into Thursday, the Caps are hoping Holtby will be more like Crow than Bob.

  1. cowboys282 - Apr 9, 2012 at 2:16 PM

    In last years Playoffs the Bruins chased every Goalie out of net expect for Carey Price. Welcome to the NHL Braden Holtby.

    • homelanddefense - Apr 9, 2012 at 2:34 PM

      some multiple times

  2. govtminion - Apr 9, 2012 at 2:44 PM

    The obvious reaction is ‘poor kid’, but… who knows, I can think of a series many years ago where a rookie goalie made the Bruins look like buffoons in the playoffs. I hated Ken Dryden with a passion for years afterwards.

    I don’t think Holtby is going to pull that same kind of performance, but… it’s possible, anyway. Even as a Bruins fan, I hope he does well. I don’t want this series to end with people here in Washington blaming him for losing the series.

    • ravenscaps48 - Apr 9, 2012 at 2:50 PM

      I think he’ll do just fine. It’s the Defense hanging him out to dry is what I’m worried about

  3. rockthered1286 - Apr 9, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    WHEN he does well (not saying win the series, but he won’t be the reason if we lose and he surely won’t be giving up 4,5,6 goals a game) I expect to see him step up for next season as a starter, or at least compete with Neuvy. I’ve been hoping the Caps would give this guy a chance after his impressive performance last season, but instead they resorted to Vokoun. Understandable with a ‘win now’ mentality, but it’s time to give this guy a chance and see what he’s got. Varly did it a few years back, I think Holtby will shine.

  4. duckandabluesailor - Apr 9, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    Doesn’t really matter how he plays, if they lose it will be hung on ovechkin and semin.

  5. creasemasta41 - Apr 9, 2012 at 3:58 PM

    Theres not enough character in the Capitals locker room to overcome any kind of adversity. I believe they will bow out in the first round, putting up a decent fight winning maybe two games, but in the end they dont have what it takes. Thats just what i think though, this is hockey and anything could happen. This summer should bring a lot of changes, and the first one should be taking the captaincy away from ovechkin and giving it to someone more deserving and mature, such as laich.

    • letangusespertplus - Apr 9, 2012 at 5:45 PM

      guess this isn’t character enough for you?

  6. movinonyoleft - Apr 9, 2012 at 6:33 PM

    I just wish it was Thursday.

  7. farvefromover - Apr 9, 2012 at 10:03 PM

    Boston smells like an oysters puss

  8. avallstar - Apr 10, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    Holtby has won a couple Caulder Cups, so while not nearly the same stage, he has performed well under pressure and has experience in playoff style series and winning a lot.

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