NASHVILLE – Saturday night’s skills competition will most likely be remembered for Dylan Larkin’s speed, Brent Burns wearing a Chewbacca mask and P.K. Subban donning a Jaromir Jagr jersey and a wig. But one of the more revelatory things that happened was in the relay, when Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby showed he can not only stop pucks, but he can shoot them, too.
Holtby’s mission was to shoot the puck the length of the ice, over a barrier, and into the opposite net. Like a natural goal-scorer, Holtby launched pucks rapid fire, not even looking to see if they went in. He only needed to make two, but Holtby scored his first three.
“I’ve never really had trouble shooting the puck before,” Holtby said. “I was really nervous going in because I didn’t know how it would be. I just grabbed the pucks and shot them. Muscle memory, I guess.”
No other goaltender in the relay pulled off the goalie goals so quickly, but handling the puck has always been a strength of Holtby’s, something he will have an opportunity to flash in the three-on-three all-star game on Sunday night. His Capitals teammates Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom weren’t at all surprised by how quickly Holtby scored.
“I know he going to shoot pretty good because he can shoot like me,” Kuznetsov said. “He play very well with his stick.”
Said Holtby: “You know, I grew up at a time where there were pretty good stickhandlers in the NHL. I mean, Marty Turco is one. Everyone knows about Marty Brodeur. Even Patrick Roy could handle it quite a bit. Those guys — that was part of the game then. I grew up being a forward and a goalie, so that kind of helped.”
Holtby didn’t completely abandon his main duties, as he also stopped all but one shot in the shootout. He said he’s never scored a goal, though he got close in the American Hockey League, when he hit a post. The all-star game seems like as good a time as any to attempt another goalie goal.
“I used to try all the time, but now, a win is worth too much in the NHL,” Holtby said. “A goalie goal isn’t worth as much as a win.”
Here’s a video recap of how the Capitals did in the skills competition: