Braden Holtby was pulled for the first time in his career Wednesday night against Philadelphia, but entering Saturday afternoon’s tilt at the Winnipeg Jets, he felt confident a better performance was in the offing.
“I just tried to relax, I’ve always seen the puck well in this rink — I don’t know why, [but] going back to the AHL,” Holtby said. “So I was confident coming in that it was going to be a better game, I was going to be able to battle for some shots. Our team played a great game in front of me.”
Holtby finished with 35 saves in the Capitals’ 3-0 win over Winnipeg for his third shutout in the past nine games and the sixth of his career. For those keeping track at home, Holtby has stopped 256 of the 274 shots he’s faced during the course of these nine consecutive starts for a .934 save percentage.
The 23-year-old netminder made it clear, though, that this shutout was just as much a product of his teammates efforts to limit the Jets to perimeter shots as it was him stopping the puck.
The volume of shots early — Washington was outshot, 15-5, in the first period — wasn’t a concern to him because his teammates were able to prevent the Jets from establishing consistent zone time or creating chances from high-percentage areas like the slot.
“That’s the way the system is supposed to be played. There might be some high shot totals, that’s what we saw in Hershey, but a lot of perimeter stuff,” Holtby said. “It frustrates other teams when they can’t get into the house area in the slot and you could see it was just frustrating them. That’s what led to their second period, they started turning the puck over and we kind of dominated.”
His teammates were equally content with the shot total, knowing that they had done their part to make Holtby’s task easier.
“We feel like they had a lot of outside opportunities no real, Grade A chances,” Troy Brouwer said. “A lot of wristers from the point that got through, that Holts should be able to save those every time.”
Said Mike Ribeiro: “I think they might have had seven, eight shots [that] I could have stopped those ones — not dangerous shots that they had at the start and we knew that.”
>When things got hectic on the penalty kill in the third period, the Capitals work to block Winnipeg’s attempts and take away shooting lanes was critical and didn’t go unnoticed by Holtby.
“It might not have been coming easy to us the whole time but you could see guys weren’t giving up on any pucks,” Holtby said. “That’s a huge positive to see. We definitely have to keep that up moving forward.”