Braden Holtby isn’t the weirdest goalie in the NHL. Like, not even close. But few people start a work shift like the Capitals’ rookie netminder.
There’s the skating aggressively in place, the water bottle squirt, the pad pound, and a bunch of other rituals described in great detail here.
The pregame routines, lovingly dubbed Holtbyisms by the always-entertaining Russian Machine Never Breaks, aren’t anything new to fans who have been watching Holtby’s development in the minors over the last few years.
But now it’s more than just Capitals fans paying attention to Holtby. After stopping 72 of 74 shots in his first two NHL playoff games, including a 2-1 double overtime victory Saturday over the Boston Bruins, the 22-year-old has become one of the central storylines of this NHL postseason.
Holtby understands that “a lot of people think flicking the water bottle is weird.” But it is also a measure of how serious he was about embracing all he needed to become a pro, to get to the NHL — in which he has now played a total of 23 regular season and playoff games. [His sports psychologist] taught Holtby how to “recognize, regroup and refocus,” whether the opponent was the Boston Bruins or the Brandon Wheat Kings. So before each period, he shuffles through his crease in the same pattern, then pantomimes approaching shots from the circle, the center, the boards — no matter what anyone thinks of how the elaborate process looks.
Now for the casual fans just tuning in, here’s a video introduction to Holtbyisms: