Roughly 14 hours after he completed a 34-save outing in a 5-1 win for the Hershey Bears over Wilkes-Barre Scranton Sunday, goaltending prospect Braden Holtby got the call at 9:30 a.m. Monday that he was being summoned to Washington.
Holtby knew it was a possibility, given that veteran Tomas Vokoun was battling the flu, but he didn’t find out he would be starting against the San Jose Sharks until he arrived at Verizon Center at 2 p.m.
Despite the short notice, Holtby didn’t offer any excuses for his 30-save outing that included a few goals he would like to have back in the Capitals’ 5-3 loss to the Sharks.
“This is where I want to be, I’m not going to look at those types of excuses,” said Holtby after his first NHL appearance this season. “They could tell me 10 minutes before the game and I’d take it and try to be as prepared as I could. That’s not the factor tonight I think, just some technical stuff.”
Coach Dale Hunter first told reporters at the Monday morning skate approximately 11 a.m. that the team didn’t know whether it would be recalling a goaltender from Hershey given Vokoun’s illness. As late as 5:20 p.m., Hunter said the Capitals had “not yet” recalled anyone from the Bears but around 6 p.m. the team announced Holtby’s recall as well as that of enforcer Joel Rechlicz.
“He’s been playing well down there in the minors, give him a chance,” Hunter said when asked why the team started Holtby. “Neuvy played the night before there, we figured he hasn’t played much of the back-to-backs, so Holtby’s ready to go we tried him.”
Granted, Holtby played the previous night as well. But Michal Neuvirth, who started in New York on Sunday, hasn’t started on consecutive days this season. It was a rather surprising move all the same, especially when considering Neuvirth told reporters after the morning skate he expected to start.
Hunter said he’s not worried about Neuvirth’s mind-set, though. “No, we’re all professionals here. It’s coach’s decision, you’ve got no control over it.”
Despite getting off to a strong start when San Jose tested him early, it certainly wasn’t an easy night for Holtby. Any advantage the Capitals might have been seeking by announcing the starter so late didn’t come to fruition.
The first goal of the night a long-range shot by Dan Boyle that was deflected by Joe Pavelski, took a few bad bounces and wound up in the net. (More on those fluky goals that seem to keep happening against the Capitals on Tuesday.)The puck continued to take odd bounces throughout the evening, when that didn’t happen the Sharks made their own by way of deflections and tips.
“There were some funny bounces tonight,” Holtby said. “It’s just one of those games that I have to go back, look at some film and make sure I improve next time.”
The Capitals didn’t fault Holtby for the loss.
“Holts is a great goalie, everybody’s seen what he could do before,” Jeff Schultz said. “We just kind of hung him out to dry and you feel bad for the guy, coming up and having the team play that way.”