During his time in NHL games and even AHL contests, Braden Holtby doesn’t have the benefit of familiarity with many of the shooters he’s facing or the rinks that he’s playing in. So in almost every scenario, Holtby, who will make his ninth NHL start tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes, has to rely on his instincts and be able to react to whatever might happen in front of him.
“Especially in the AHL, because you maybe know of four or five guys and you’ve maybe played against two of them on a team,” Holtby said. “So you’re facing a lot of guys that you’ve never seen before.
”You’ve just got to go and do it, and react a bit more. It helps you in the long run because you’re not cheating towards anything or getting away with things that you can do because you know people’s tendencies. You have to play everything honestly.”
When Edmonton’s Andrew Cogliano had a shorthanded breakaway at a pivotal juncture of the second period, Holtby said he just wanted to make sure he had enough time and space to react to his opponent’s speed.
Another thing that was a little different Wednesday, in what proved to be Holtby’s first NHL shutout in Washington’s 5-0 win over the Oilers, was how little he played the puck. Holtby is known for his aggressive style and confidence playing the puck, while part of his limited involvement with the puck was because the Oilers couldn’t get much going in the offensive zone, he also wasn’t completely comfortable with the Verizon Center boards.
“I didn’t feel too comfortable behind the net [against Edmonton],” Holtby said. “I don’t know. I was getting some weird bounces in the first period and I just didn’t feel comfortable. I didn’t think I’d be able to help the guys too much if I wasn’t getting them clean off the boards and practice yesterday I was able to get to know the boards a little better and what they’re doing. They aren’t exactly ideal but at least I know what to do now.”