Braden Holtby wasn’t scheduled to play Friday night, but when Michal Neuvirth suffered an apparent injury to his right leg in the opening moments of warmup, the plan changed.
Washington’s usual starter was called upon with short notice, but that didn’t impact his ability to put forth a strong outing. Holtby kept the Capitals in the game early through their rough start, finished with 35 saves and thwarted two of the four shooters he faced in the shootout helping Washington to a 3-2 shootout win over the Montreal Canadiens.
“He played great. That’s why we talk all the time about being pros, because anything can happen,” Coach Adam Oates said. “Neuvy, five seconds into warmups, he’s out and that’s why you prepare yourself and you’re ready to play.”
While there’s no good time for a goaltender to suffer an injury, particularly one that requires a last-minute switch before a game, Holtby benefitted from Neuvirth going out so early in warmups. It allowed him to take part in the full session and work through drills as he normally would.
Holtby’s lengthy preparation routine is well-documented, but even though he wasn’t able to go through the full routine (no pregame visualizations on the bench) it didn’t affect him much.
“It’s not as bad as it seems because first you have adrenaline that automatically gets your head into the game,” Holtby said. “The preparation is more for consistency, to not have those down games so if there’s only one out of how many that you don’t get to prepare the same there’s still things you can do to make sure you battle as hard as you can and be sharp.”
Friday morning Oates said he wanted to give Holtby another day to reflect on and move past the game-winning goal he allowed to the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday. When circumstances didn’t allow that to occur, Holtby responded as the Capitals needed him to. He was pleased he could do his part to end Washington’s losing streak as well.
“Any time you’re in a losing streak you want to get back in there and be a part of the guys that make the difference,” Holtby said. “As far as the Ottawa game goes there’s that one goal I want back, but I’ve learned in my short pro career that you can’t let those eat you up or you won’t be having a pro career very long.”
Five thoughts will follow Saturday morning.