In the first round of these playoffs, Braden Holtby faced an average of 35.4 shots per game. In Game 1 of this Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Rangers he saw just 14, and the rookie netminder admitted he wasn’t as engaged in the contest as he would have liked.
Holtby allowed three goals on those 14 shots as the Capitals fell, 3-1, to New York.
“Obviously I wasn’t real happy with it. It’s a tough game to stay into it, mentally-wise, and I didn’t do a good enough job tonight,” Holtby said. “I think they had a tired group over there and we didn’t bring it tonight, myself especially. I think I had a tough time getting into the game, not because of the stakes, but just because of how the game went. I didn’t bring the level up when I needed to and I’ll work on that for Game 2.”
Coach Dale Hunter and the rest of the Capitals didn’t place blame on the 22-year-old Saskatchewan native, but rather the defensive miscues that left too much time, space and opportunity for the Rangers to maneuver.
“He’s always hard on himself. But the kid’s a battler,” Hunter said. “He gives us a chance and we just didn’t capitalize on our chances.”
Those reassurances didn’t ease Holtby’s mind immediately after the game, though. He said that staying on point in games when he faces fewer shots is easier said than done.
“Just have to keep your mind in it. Find ways, remind yourself of certain things you’re going to do,” Holtby said. “The biggest thing is to not get upset….not start thinking that if they come down here and score that it’s going to be the end of the world. You’ve just got to play every shot the same. It’s hard to do, it’s easy to say, but that’s what you have to do.”
While it was by all accounts Holtby’s worst game of the postseason so far, the Capitals aren’t worried about his ability to bounce back and respond to the disappointing outing.
“He’s pretty tough on himself. He’s going to come back, he’s going to prepare like he always does. And he’s going to want to be better,” Troy Brouwer said. “ He’s going to expect more out of himself. We expect him to be solid back there. It’s a tough building to play in front of. He’s going to come bounce back. We know it.”
— Interactive graphic: Track every Caps shot in the postseason