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Yes, Braden Holtby is that good

Aug 28, 2013, 11:28 AM EDT

Braden Holtby Getty Images

If there’s anything in Washington that’s been as steady as Alex Ovechkin filling the net, it’s wondering who, exactly, would be their No. 1 goalie.

The list of guys who have been the leading man in goal since 2007 is an exhaustive one: Olaf Kolzig, Jose Theodore, Michal Neuvirth, Semyon Varlamov, Tomas Vokoun. The newest name to that list is one that should put an end to the stop-gap method that’s plagued the Capitals in recent years.

Braden Holtby took over last season as the team’s starting goalie, beating out Neuvirth for the job. Once he earned Adam Oates’ trust, his play along with Ovechkin’s steady offense led the Caps out of the Eastern Conference cellar and into the playoffs.

While Holtby is headed into his fourth season with the Caps, his résumé thus far reads like that of a guy who isn’t relinquishing his starting job anytime soon.

2010-2011: 10-2-2    .934 SV%   1.79 GAA
2011-2012:   4-2-1    .922 SV%    2.49 GAA
2012-2013: 23-12-1  .920 SV%   2.55 GAA

If you want to poke holes in what Holtby’s done, the easiest way to do that is yell about the small sample size. Fair enough. No one should be crowned after just 57 NHL games. Of course, his record in the AHL with the Hershey Bears was pretty good too.

Washington has the luxury of having many young goalies who all may blossom and become elite starters. Neuvirth has had his moments in the sun and Philipp Grubauer is waiting for his chance to shine in the minors. Neuvirth is the old man of the bunch at 24 years old while Holtby is 23 and Grubauer is 21.

That said, those other two haven’t put up the same kinds of numbers Holtby has at either pro level. His invite to Team Canada’s Olympic camp wasn’t just for laughs. He’s shown he can compete at that level and he may just be there to stay for a while.

  1. fivetozeroingame7 - Aug 28, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    He’s pretty good when it’s not game 7.

    • capitalspearljam - Aug 28, 2013 at 12:06 PM

      your a douche, quit trolling the capitals articles today…..

      • fivetozeroingame7 - Aug 28, 2013 at 12:30 PM

        YOU’RE a hothead. YOUR spelling is terrible.

      • capitalspearljam - Aug 28, 2013 at 1:48 PM

        yes my spelling is awful. but i was excited to have actual conversations about the caps today since its capitals day on pht, and not deal with useless trash talk

      • kyzslew77 - Aug 28, 2013 at 2:22 PM

        Guys, leave the Rangers fan alone, the Rangers have been way more successful than the Caps in the playoffs recently, he has the right to talk. They have always followed through on their preseason hype and lived up to their playoff seed.

      • ibieiniid - Aug 28, 2013 at 3:31 PM

        ^^^people on this site are horrible at detecting sarcasm.

      • ibieiniid - Aug 28, 2013 at 3:31 PM

        (was talking about the thumbs-downers, not kyzslew77, btw)

    • blomfeld - Aug 28, 2013 at 11:43 PM

      blomfeld – Aug 26, 2013 at 11:54 AM

      1) Carey Price

      2) Corey Crawford

      3) Braden Holtby

      1,2,3 … simple as that ! :)

      ______________________________________

      Judge: does counsel for the people wish to add anything further ?

      Blomfeld: no your honor …

      Judge: then thank you comrade Blomfeld for once again being an agent of truth !

      Blomfeld: it’s both my duty and my pleasure comrade …

      Judge: very well then, the court finds the Luongo lovers to be ‘guilty’ as charged !

      Luongo Lovers: wait a minute man ! … like what’s going on here ?

      Guards: shut up you idiots ! … KAPOW !!! .. KABOOM !!! .. KAZAM !!!

  2. govtminion - Aug 28, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    I’m not overly impressed with the Capitals overall- I’m not even sure they’re a playoff team without a Southeast Division to pick on anymore. But this kid really is fun to watch- if the Caps are strong anywhere now, it’s net.

    Makes one wonder what his numbers would look like if he had a decent defense in front of him.

    • hockey412 - Aug 28, 2013 at 11:51 AM

      That defense is going to be better and better though. Not sure how I feel about Green, but Carlson and Alzner are both locked up now, and should mature very well. It should be interesting to watch.

    • capitalspearljam - Aug 28, 2013 at 12:11 PM

      grabovski def gives the caps a chance at the playoffs, but i wish gmgm did alittle more to help us in the fight. give holtby some time, he will continually grow in net, its def been tough with the inconsistent defense

    • 19to77 - Aug 28, 2013 at 12:35 PM

      Cam Ward wakes up every morning and asks himself the same thing. At least Holtby has Alzner and Carlson to lean on for shutdown minutes.

      Holtby IS fun to watch. He’s so calm and collected. Bad goals don’t seem to get to him. Hell, nothing does. Remember when Peverly fake-slashed at his head and he didn’t even react? Guy’s an iceman when he’s on his game.

    • therealjr - Aug 28, 2013 at 1:07 PM

      Caps have a solid top 9 F and solid goaltending. D is a little thin beyond Green, Carlson and Alzner, but Orlov is a wildcard there.

      They should easily be a playoff team. Beyond that it’s the usual questions and doubts because they haven’t proven they can do anything.

      • mattybo - Aug 28, 2013 at 7:37 PM

        Easily? They cleaned up on their garbage division and didn’t do nearly as well against the teams in their actual NHL division they’ll be facing this year.

      • therealjr - Aug 28, 2013 at 10:23 PM

        Yes, they are easily in the top 8 in the eastern conference. If you actually look at the data instead of just running your mouth you would see that last year the #1 Pens went 12-3 against the SE and the Caps went 15-3. Assuming it’s ok for the Pens to take 12 wins against the division, you are left with 3 odd games against the SE. Take those away and they still make the playoffs in a shortened season with a terrible start. Maybe NJ and PHI could have made the playoffs if they played better against that garbage division.

        The rest of your argument is pointless, unless you are going to play 2013 using sim data from last year.

        The irony is getting out of the SE and getting more games against the old Patrick division teams is not only better for the fans but probably what is needed for this team to grow.

      • mattybo - Aug 29, 2013 at 7:37 AM

        The caps went 4-11 against the Atlantic and 8-7 against the NE where as the penguins went 12-3 against both – only using them as a reference since you did, I’m far from a fan of them. So yeah, their combined 12-18 record against the rest of the east has me sure they’ll take a playoff spot.

      • therealjr - Aug 30, 2013 at 3:35 PM

        So you are basing everything on what amounts to being horrible for the first half of a 48-game season with all kinds of extenuating circumstances.

        Remind me to call out your ignorance around April of 2014.

    • jpelle82 - Aug 28, 2013 at 1:14 PM

      the only reason he was a 2.55 and .920 was because of jan and feb last year. i wouldnt be surprised to see him at 2.30 and .930 when this ’13-’14 is said and done – and those numbers would still be lower than he was in march and april this past year. i make that prediction even with liabilities like green and carlson in front of him, he’s shown he’s that good.

      • giantwashcapsfan - Aug 28, 2013 at 11:24 PM

        Since when in any way is Carlson a liability. Just because he puts up points he is a liability. Carlson is the caps best defenseman. He will soon be elite and there is no way you can argue that he is a liability. Green may not be the most solid defenseman but take away all of his offense, would you still want him on your 2nd d line. Add in all the goals and he’s and elite top 4.

    • kyzslew77 - Aug 28, 2013 at 3:38 PM

      Can we please just stop the tired narrative about how the fact that the Caps will play like 5 fewer games than normal against the SouthLEAST (lol, only two cup winning teams from there in the last decade) and 5 more against POWERHOUSES like the Islanders and Flyerzzz is going to knock the Caps out of the playoffs? Please.

      • huntermb - Aug 28, 2013 at 3:49 PM

        kyzslew77 is dead on.

        Last year the Caps played 18 games against the SE division. All the other non-SE teams in the Easter Conference played 15 against the SE division.

      • kyzslew77 - Aug 28, 2013 at 3:51 PM

        Narratives: for people who don’t like to think or worry about facts

      • jpelle82 - Aug 28, 2013 at 7:21 PM

        yes last year was an anomoly due to the abreviated schedule. the east didnt play the west at all and none of the teams played 6 games against each of their division rivals like they normally do. normal schedule, you play your division 6 times and the rest of the east teams 4 times, then you play the western teams at least once maybe twice. 24 games vs the se vs everyone else playing only 16 games vs the same se teams on a reg schedule has been a factor for the caps successes in previous years. this year will prove that. caps played 18 games against tampa, fl, car, and winipeg while the rest of the east only played those same teams 12 times.

      • jpelle82 - Aug 28, 2013 at 7:25 PM

        so yeah kyle and hunter you guys are wrong and skewing the numbers

      • kyzslew77 - Aug 28, 2013 at 9:51 PM

        Fine, so it’s an 8 game difference in and out of the division. How many points is that worth, even if we assume that the SE was vastly inferior to the other two Eastern divisions? Maybe the Caps go 6-2 in those 8 games before, and now go 4-4? That’ll affect their playoff seed, but it’s not making them a non-playoff team in any of the past five years except 2011-2012.

  3. pensman29 - Aug 28, 2013 at 11:58 AM

    If I was gonna poke holes in his game id say it was because his stats are getting progressively worse. But I’m not gonna do that ;)

    • 19to77 - Aug 28, 2013 at 1:19 PM

      Fun with small sample sizes, my friend. It’s one thing to post .930 in ten games. Quite another to post it in forty.

    • giantwashcapsfan - Aug 28, 2013 at 11:26 PM

      Post game 5 of last regular season his save percentage was .929 and a GAA under 2.3. That’s vezina worthy.

  4. voci5128 - Aug 28, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    I still think that Michal Neuvirth is way better. Holby got the start because he was with the coach in the AHL last yr. So he had the deal sealed up. Neuvy has 121 GP and 55 wins with a GAA of 2.66 career. He also has a MVP of the AHL calder cup and a record with the lowest GAA in the history of the AHL. He has not been given a real shot since he has come up from BACK to BACK calder cups. Is Holby good, yes. But lets see him complete a full season with the big boys. I see neuvy starting by Dec. if they want to win a cup from a proven keeper.

    • 19to77 - Aug 28, 2013 at 1:30 PM

      He played 75% of the games last season and posted the numbers of a bona fide top-15 starter. Neuvirth is good, but he’ll simply have to be better than he has been if he wants to wrestle the job back from Holtby. Holtby’s cemented himself as a reliable .920 netminder. Coaches don’t make guys who consistently play like that fight for their jobs.

  5. naterr716 - Aug 28, 2013 at 2:34 PM

    While I agree with the goaltending in Washington being an absolute carousel since ’07, I don’t think Olaf Kolzig was really a part of the ride. He was a very solid tender for the caps for a long time. 2007 was the tail end of his career, and if anything his departure was really the catalyst for the whole thing.

    just my .02

  6. billyhauntswizards - Aug 28, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    Holtby’s going to be a great goalie, and it’s a promising sign that he kicks it up a hundred notches when the playoffs arrive. He gave my Rangers fits in the playoffs two straight years, hopefully another team has to deal with him this year haha

  7. huntermb - Aug 28, 2013 at 3:41 PM

    Holtby’s season was a lot better than most realize. His stats took a dive over the first five games because the Caps were attempting to learn a new system with almost no preseason action and an extremely truncated training camp. Predictably, the team look atrocious when the season opened, team defense was virtually nonexistent.

    If we look at Holtby’s season without his first 5 games, in which the team in front of him was getting shellacked, the numbers jump up to 22-8-1, 0.929 SV%, and 2.27 GAA. That SV% would trail only Anderson and Bobrovsky and was still a large enough sample to see just 4 fewer shots than Rask.

    It’s still an small overall sample size, but when you combine the stats with his skill set (good size, very good movement, very good/elite glove hand) it bodes well for his future.

    • giantwashcapsfan - Aug 28, 2013 at 11:29 PM

      YES ANOTHER PERSON WHO HIT THE STAT BOOKS AND ADDED ALL THE NUMBERS OUT TO SHOW HIS VEZINA WORTHY NUMBERS. I bring this every time someone says caps wont be good cause of goaltending or that he isn’t very good.

  8. vbcaps - Aug 28, 2013 at 5:36 PM

    Even tho I am partial because I am a Caps fan, I think this could be one of the sleeper teams in the East.

    Their top 6 is solid. They have depth at center with the Grabo signing, Hotlby can be lights out, Neuvy has shown a few signs of being an NHL undisputed no. 1 goalie

    I would like to see Backstrom shoot more this year, he has a good shot but I I feel he has a “pass first” too much last year when he should of shot…i agree with some who say he hasn’t looked the same since that Borque cheap shot to the head and subsequent injury during lockout

    Defense has shown signs towards the end of last season of being able to play sound, positional defense that has puck moving capabilities…and I like (John Carlson and Karl Alzner who could/should still be getting better ever year). If Mike Green can stay healthy, not be a liability on D and score some crucial goals (live up to the “game over green” nick name)

    Can they beat Boston? A lot of people counted them out of that series two years ago and Boston lost a lot of people this off season and every year Chara gets a year older.

    Can they beat the penguins? Ehh probably not in a 7 game round 1 series but the Islanders gave the Pens all they could handle in Round 1 last year

    Philly? They have plenty of their own question marks

    Detroit? Big D is going to be good, especially with Alfradson

    Other potential sleeper teams with a lot of question marks-Columbus, NYR, Islanders, Carolina, Toronto, Ottawo

    • giantwashcapsfan - Aug 28, 2013 at 11:32 PM

      Top 6? I strongly believe our bottom 2 lines are the best in the league.
      Laich – Perrault – Fehr is an elite 3rd line. Someone could even say we are the top offensive team in the league regarding depth.

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