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Could Braden Holtby give Capitals a Halak-like edge?

Apr 12, 2012, 11:44 PM EDT

Chris Kelly, Braden Holtby AP

Two years ago, the Washington Capitals massively out-shot the Montreal Canadiens but ultimately lost a close series in seven games. By the end, Caps fans must have been cursing the name “Jaroslav Halak,” but after Game 1 against the Boston Bruins, the team might have their closest answer to him in Braden Holtby.

Sure, it’s not a perfect analogy. Halak was fighting with Carey Price for 1a/1b status in Montreal while Holtby’s only played sparingly at the NHL level.

Still, there’s enough for it to make for an interesting potential narrative. Holtby stopped 29 out of 30 shots, which is impressive enough. But much like Halak, Holtby radiated an unmistakable swagger. Tim Thomas collected another shutout in Boston’s 1-0 OT win, but Holtby often stole the show.

Maybe he didn’t seem impenetrable, but there was an eerie, implacable confidence to the way the young netminder was operating. It wasn’t enough to win, obviously, but much like with Halak, the Capitals seemed content to “turtle” in their own zone and hope for the occasional counter-punching opportunity because the Bruins couldn’t solve Holtby.

Honestly, I’m not convinced that is the right strategy for the Capitals to go with, even if they’re playing the role of underdogs. (If you ask me, nine out of 10 hockey underdogs score upset based on less-than-thrilling methods.)

That being said, if Holtby’s Game 1 is a sign of things to come rather than just an intriguing mirage of goaltending, the Bruins might be in for a frustrating series and Washington could have some sincere upset potential.

Here’s a look at what Holtby and Thomas did in Game 1:

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  1. ravenscaps48 - Apr 12, 2012 at 11:49 PM

    Really? A few hours ago, you guys were saying that he’s just a rookie… Now you’re comparing him to Halak? Wow. He’s the real deal, and the League saw it first hand tonight

    • James O'Brien - Apr 12, 2012 at 11:50 PM

      Halak went into the 2010 playoffs as a fairly unknown goalie in his own right.

    • pepper2011 - Apr 13, 2012 at 9:48 AM

      He played well, but not great. Caps defense was very good – 22 blocked shots; it can be said, but one or two get through and it’s a whole different ball game. He still crapped his pants in OT – that being said he seems like it won’t get to him too much. The first period of Saturdays game is important for him, If the caps come out and fall behind early; I might be worried about his psyche,
      but certainly not yet. As a Bruins fan; I love the fact they only managed 17 shots in 3+ period and ovi only had 1. The last two times these teams have met they have had 9 shots (3/29) in the first two periods and 7 (last night). They have come out stronger in the 3rd. 16 shots in 4 periods against the Bruins will not get it done 95% of the time. they have been the best 3rd period team all season and if you are going into the 3rd averaging 4 shots a period; that’s not a good recipe. Also- of note Chara only played 1.5 more minutes than Corvo- you can expect that to go up if they get an early lead and on the road when they don’t control the matchups. If the caps contiune to play they way they did last night it will be a good series, but I expect the B’s to make Holtby’s life a little more difficult next game.

  2. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Apr 12, 2012 at 11:52 PM

    Of course it’s possible, but this is only one game so let’s not go crazy. Wait and see if he carries that swagger into game two.

  3. hockeyflow33 - Apr 13, 2012 at 12:05 AM

    He wasn’t really challenged at all during the game. Mostly perimeter shots with no traffic in front of him. Can’t take away the 29 saves but even being at the game, I certainly didn’t leave the rink thinking he would be the reason the B’s could lose.

    • dropthepuckeh - Apr 13, 2012 at 12:18 AM

      I respectfully disagree with @hockeyflow33, I think he was definitely challenged and came up huge. Regardless of his experience he was the key difference in the score which could have easily been 4-0 Bruins if a lesser goalie had been playing. Further, his confidence and poise kept the team in the game all night rather than getting defeated.

      As a Bruins fan I hope this was an anomaly and that Saturday’s game is a blowout but give the kid credit; either team could have won in OT tonight…obviously.

    • homelanddefense - Apr 13, 2012 at 9:20 AM

      I actually agree with hockeyflow. He made 2 or 3 really good saves, the rest were at distance with no screens. He probably should have saved that game winner too. He played well, probably better than expected. But I dont see how he is all of a sudden the difference maker.

  4. dolanster - Apr 13, 2012 at 12:05 AM

    He played well, no doubt. He’s a big talented kid. Bruins will wear down the Caps though. It’s one thing to be outshot, it’s another to take a beating along the boards. Expect McQuaid back soon as well.

  5. sabatimus - Apr 13, 2012 at 12:23 AM

    Holtby is not the main reason why the Caps competed so well and kept the B’s off the scoreboard during regulation. That’d be the Caps’ shot blocking.

    • ballistictrajectory - Apr 13, 2012 at 7:21 AM

      The Bruins’ offense seemed to be trying to fire as soon as they got the puck within reach. A little more time holding the puck and a lot of those blocked shots would not have been. Perfect example is Laich blocking Marchand from the high slot. No one was near Marchand. If he fakes then slides left or right a bit Laich is out of the play and the shot get to the goal.

  6. stakex - Apr 13, 2012 at 12:27 AM

    I don’t know if the Caps will be able to ride Holtby to a win in this series, but I will say that this was the best goaltending performance the Caps have had in the playoffs over the last few years.

  7. odj810 - Apr 13, 2012 at 7:07 AM

    send lucic out to run him, that will change his attitude.

  8. cba77 - Apr 13, 2012 at 8:22 AM

    Halak like edge…really? You can keep your 3rd string netkeeper, I’ll stick with Thomas…I think he may give the B’s an edge….just sayin

  9. scalfor3 - Apr 13, 2012 at 12:17 PM

    the guy left plenty of “juicy rebounds” out there. B’s werent able to capitalize. i give him credit for not crapping the bed when plenty of guys would have, but the reason they went to OT was the caps shot blocking.

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