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In losing effort, Holtby stands tall

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Loose Pucks,Sports,Brian McNally

Bruins 1, Caps 0 (OT)

Often hard to see the good after losing a Stanley Cup playoff game in overtime. Players have an advantage because they can stew overnight and have to shrug it off by the next morning’s practice. Fans? Well, it’s a long 48 hours until the next game. Imagine if the Caps lost like this on Monday and had to wait three days before playing again.

Anyway – start with the very good. Braden Holtby showed why some in the organization think he’s the best bet to be the long-term answer in goal for Washington. It’s no guarantee. Holtby has played all of one postseason game and still has to prove he can handle a long regular season as the clear No. 1. Plus, Michal Neuvirth is unlikely to cede playing time easily. But there’s a reason general manager George McPhee was willing to go into this season with those two as his goalies – until Tomas Vokoun came into play during the great free-agent goalie market crash of 2011.

Holtby stopped 29 of 30 Boston shots. That he was a little off on his angle on Kelly’s winner – well, nobody’s perfect. He gave his team almost 62 minutes to try and steal a win and they couldn’t do it. You really can’t ask for much more than that.

What did we see? A 22-year-old doing his best Tim Thomas impersonation at times. Not that he had to make a ton of acrobatic saves. Instead, Holtby proved he was willing to battle. One sequence 2:02 into the second period epitomized his night. Rich Peverley stood in front of the net hacking and whacking at a loose puck. But Holtby stood his ground, stopping one shot and then batting it away when it pooped into the air in front of him. It was all-around excellent work.

Not sure what the Bruins were expecting. Most had never seen Holtby live, after all, unless one of them caught him at the AHL level in a game between Providence and Hershey. But this is Holtby’s game. He’s aggressive. He’s an excellent puck-handler – though sometimes too adventurous. As we thought, that helped the Caps neutralize some of Boston’s brutal forecheck. For much of the first 10 minutes of the third period, Washington was clearly the better team and Holtby actually had little work. Boston went 12:55 without a shot on goal at one point. And it’s not like they were sitting on a lead.

“I felt all right. Later on in the game, I felt like there was some things I needed to be better at,” Holtby told reporters in Boston afterwards. “I got a little sloppy with some things and those are some things I'll need to improve on for the next game. Mainly I wasn't there for the boys in overtime and I'll definitely be better for that.”

He’d love the overtime goal back. But in a 1-0 game, so what? Caps aren’t winning anyway without scoring and they just didn’t generate enough against Tim Thomas. There were 17 shots on goal. For sure, the long penalty kill stretch late in the first period and early in the second period hurt. But they have to grind through and find ways to force the Bruins shakier defensemen into turnovers.

Follow me on Twitter @bmcnally14

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