Of all the statistics used to evaluate goaltenders, Braden Holtby focuses only on wins.
“That’s all I care about,” Holtby said earlier this month. “If we win most of our games and my stats are horrible, it doesn’t matter. Winning is the main objective in hockey. Obviously, it’s a team stat, so it’s a lot more enjoyable that way.”
Fittingly, it’s Holtby’s best statistic. The Washington Capitals‘ success this season has naturally correlated with the best season of Holtby’s career. He got his 42nd win of the season in a 2-1 overtime win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, and that made him the winningest goalie in franchise history.
“Obviously, it shows the season we’re having here as a team,” Holtby said. “That’s good. It shows consistency in what we’re doing. It’s a little thing along the way that you forget about pretty quickly as we’re moving on to bigger things.”
With 13 games left in the season, it’s possible that’s not the only record he sets, as he needs just seven more wins to pass Martin Brodeur’s single-season wins record of 48. Through the Capitals’ first 69 games of the season, Holtby now has 42 wins, and at the same juncture of the 2006-07 New Jersey Devils’ season when he set the record, Brodeur had 41 wins.
“He reminds me of me a lot,” Brodeur said in February. “Not the way he plays or whatever, but the way he puts himself out there. He’s not scared. He just wants to play. I’m sure he’s playing through tons of injuries. He’s a warrior out there; he just looks like that. I don’t know him, and I don’t know if he does or not, but he’s having a great year, and it’s not just this year. Last year, he was coming on. He’s going to be good for a long time for them.”
Holtby has arguably stumbled since the all-star break. Through the end of January, he had a 2.07 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage. Since then, he’s allowed three goals or more in a game eight times, and he has a 2.47 goals-against average in the 17 games since then with a .908 save percentage in that span. But he’s continued to win, 12-3-1 since the start of February.
Assuming backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer gets the second game of every back-to-back the Capitals have left for the rest of the season, that leaves Holtby with 10 starts to get the seven wins he needs to set the wins record. Holtby has won 75 percent of his starts this season, so it’s very much within reach.
“I think he’s part of hopefully a big future for us,” Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said of Holtby. “He’s a home-grown talent, which I think is beneficial and I think he’s got lots of good years left in him. He’s just starting to enter the prime of his career. Hopefully that’ll be a [franchise] record that’ll be hard to beat. If he can get a few more wins, he can move up the ladder a little bit on the regular season type of situation.”