There was no one in the Capitals’ dressing room with a more harsh perspective of their rookie goaltender’s performance than Braden Holtby himself. The 22-year-old didn’t hold back criticism of his showing in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Flyers on Thursday night in Philadelphia.
He called the shootout “terrible.” He said he wasn’t as aggressive as he should have been on a poke-check, going “halfway” on the play that resulted in Claude Giroux’s game-tying goal in the second period. Despite his disappointment, Holtby finished with 27 saves and earned praise from his teammates.
To some extent it was the type of game to expect from Holtby at this early stage in his career. In his third appearance this season, he showed flashes of brillance and calm under pressure that was key in Washington obtaining a point in the playoff-style game. But he also had a few moments in which the high-risk side of his aggressive style was on display.
“I felt comfortable,” Holtby said of the game before the shootout. “Obviously there was some scrambling in front and luck was on our side today. But I felt like my movement was good. I kept my head in the game very well and the puck-handling was good at times and a little sloppy at times, too. It wasn’t a perfect effort but not a bad one.”
Said Coach Dale Hunter of the young netminder’s outing: “Holtby played hard. They’ve got good snipers coming down on him — lot of goals on them sticks over the year. He did a good job.”
Holtby likes to come out and challenge a shooter, that’s what he did when he saw Giroux skirt Dennis Wideman in the neutral zone with roughly six minutes gone in the second period. The play didn’t go the way Holtby envisioned, though, as he didn’t poke the puck away and Giroux was able to shoot into an empty net and tie the score at 1 at 6:05 of the second.
“I got caught halfway. When he had his head down kind of going around Wides, the right play I think with my game is to slide, poke-check and surprise him,” Holtby said. “And I just kind of did a halfway effort and didn’t slide in, go aggressive as I needed to, and that’s why it got around me. That’s a play I’d like to have back but one I’m not going to dwell on.”
In the shootout – the third in the NHL of Holtby’s career – he stopped chances by Giroux and Danny Briere but allowed goals to Matt Read five-hole and then the deciding marker to Wayne Simmonds on a shot that went under his elbow.
“I was just trying to force him to shoot glove,” Holtby said. “That’s the unwritten rule in goaltending: you make them make the first move, and I didn’t. That’s, like they’d say, I guess a rookie mistake and that’s one I definitely won’t make again. I thought he was going glove-side, high glove.”
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