Lots made in the national media along the lines of “Who is Braden Holtby and why is he shutting down the defending Stanley Cup champs?” It’s fair that Holtby is a virtual unknown outside of Washington. Even here he’ a promising young player with limited experience and two goalies ahead of him on the organizational depth chart.
But let’s take it easy on the “coming out of nowhere” meme. Holtby was named NHL player of the week during one recall from AHL Hershey last season. He is 14-4-3 in the regular season in 21 NHL appearances over two years. He would have had a shot at playing all season in Washington if the team hadn’t signed Tomas Vokoun last summer. No one knows what Holtby’s ceiling is right now. None of that matters anyway. For now he is a 22-year-old standing up to the defending champs.
“He’s done a good job, but that being said it’s about us making his job harder and tougher and screening him more and finding the puck for the rebounds and the ugly goals,” Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron said.
All too true. It’s nothing personal. With any goalie, Boston would need to generate more traffic. What they’re doing now just isn’t good enough given Holtby’s level of play.
“This is something that doesn’t work just for one goaltender. That works for any goaltender in this league,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “What they can’t see, they can’t stop, and our game plan would be the same against any other team, and right now, like I said, it’s just not happening enough, and [Holtby is] seeing a lot of pucks. I’m certainly not discrediting him because he’s played well. He’s made some big saves when he had to, but we certainly haven’t made his life as miserable as much as we can when we’re at the top of our game.”
Holtby has stopped 72 of the 74 shots on goal from Boston in two games - 144 minutes, 14 seconds of action. And while the Bruins are frustrated about their lack of traffic in front, credit the Caps defensemen for helping push them out of the crease area and for forwards and defensemen both clearing pucks away quickly when Holtby’s rebound control gets sloppy.
“The good thing is that everybody's doing everything they can to help him stop the pucks,” teammate Marcus Johansson said. “I think when we do that, they don't get as many Grade-A chances, maybe, as in the regular season. I think that's something we have to do every game in this series or all the series.”
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