The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Alex Ovechkin says Braden Holtby is ‘our best player’

(Gary Wiepert/Associated Press)
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BUFFALO — It was the rare “easy night” for Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, or at least that’s what Coach Barry Trotz had called it. Trotz didn’t think the Buffalo Sabres had many grade-A scoring chances, and that’s the kind it would take to beat Holtby.

With about a minute left in the game and Buffalo making a push with its goaltender pulled, Evander Kane got the Sabres’ best chance. He had the puck directly in point-blank range, and Holtby was near the far post. Taylor Chorney lunged to block the shot, but there was no need. Holtby went into a full split and his glove caught the puck, preserving the shutout in the Capitals’ 2-0 win.

After the game, Holtby nonchalantly described the miracle save.

“It was kind of a broken play, ended up in his body, so I knew I had a bit of time to push and get over there,” he said. “I tried to take away where shooters usually shoot the puck, and it went in the glove luckily.”

The save on Kane came after Holtby had been crashed into more than usual.

Monday’s game was just his second shutout of the season. He hasn’t lost in regulation since a 1-0 loss to Detroit on Nov. 10, and his 15-0-1 record since Nov. 12 has matched the longest single-season streaks of consecutive decisions without a regulation loss by an NHL goaltender over the last five seasons, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Holtby is the league-leader in wins (23) and goals-against average (1.85), a clear Vezina Trophy Candidate. After he made 31 saves against the Sabres, Alex Ovechkin is ready to name Holtby the team’s MVP.

“The goaltending is 75 percent of the team, or 80 percent,” Ovechkin said. “We knew he’s good. He’s our best player and probably the best goalie in the league right now.”

Said defenseman Karl Alzner: “He’s definitely the main reason why I think we’re sitting at the top right now. … You need a good goaltender to go deep in this league and win, so he’s our guy right now.”