Last season was an up-and-down one for Washington Capitals’ goaltender Braden Holtby.
In the regular season, he was extremely inconsistent. Sure, he had 34 wins, but the numbers that came with that were not what we have come to expect from the 29-year-old Vezina Trophy-winning masked man.
Last year, he posted a 2.99 goals against average and a .907 save percentage. Not only did he have those subpar numbers, but he did not even have any shutouts, which is strange considering that he has 33 in his career.
Last year’s playoffs, however, were a much different story. After losing the starting goaltending position for the first two games, he returned, and was simply magnificent.
In helping his team when their first Cup in franchise history last year, he went 16-7 with a 2.16 goals against average, a .922 save percentage, and two shutouts. He also had the save of the playoffs, and maybe the save of the year, in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Everything he did in last year’s playoffs basically wiped out the inconsistent regular season. He proved that he was the right guy to lead the franchise to their first Cup.
To start this season, however, it appears that the Holtby of last regular season has returned. While it is obviously a long season and there is still a lot of time for Holtby to get his numbers to where they should be, his play in the early going is a bit alarming.
As of this writing, Holtby is 4-3-2 with a 3.62 goals against average, a .888 save percentage and one shutout. Sure, he’s had some tough luck with the two overtime losses, but no matter which way you look at it, these numbers are quite bad.
In looking at his last three starts, he has allowed 12 goals on 99 shots. In just one of those games, he posted a save percentage of over .900, which means that he is not doing enough on his part to help the Capitals win hockey games.
In the two starts prior, he also was not great. He allowed 6 goals on 35 shots and while he did win one of those games, he still showed that he was inconsistent and, once again, the regular season is not being kind to him.
The reason why this is somewhat alarming because this is now the second straight year in which this is happening to him. Again, I understand that there is still a lot of time for Holtby to straighten things out, but one has to wonder if this is going to become a trend.
It will be interesting to see how and when Holtby turns it around because like last year, he may lose some of his starts to his team’s backup, Pheonix Copley. While Copley hasn’t exactly played great last season, he has played well enough in his last two starts, winning both games and stopping a combined 58 of 63 shots.
Hopefully for both Holtby and the Capitals, he will get his game back on track because if this team wants to have any chance of defending their title, it will be with Holtby between the pipes.
*Photo: Boston Herald/Associated Press