The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Braden Holtby is one win from tying NHL record, but he’ll likely have to wait a game

(Photo by Toni L. Sandys/ The Washington Post)

DENVER – After one of the Washington Capitals‘ most dominant games of the season, a 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche that gave Washington its 55th win of the season, a franchise record, conversation in the locker room shifted to the Capitals’ goaltender. Only one netminder has ever had more wins in a season than Braden Holtby, who notched his 47th on Friday, and Washington still has five games left for Holtby to beat Martin Brodeur’s record of 48.

“Two to go,” Alex Ovechkin said. “We’re going to do our best to help him out. Maybe it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We’re going to do our best.”

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Jason Chimera even suggested “maybe he’ll start” on Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes. The Capitals have the Presidents’ Trophy clinched, but helping Holtby set the single-season wins record is one of the few things the team has left to play for in the regular season. After Holtby saw just 19 shots on goal against the Avalanche, questioning if he would play his second game in as many nights wasn’t preposterous.

“I’m not sure we’re going to go there or not,” Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said after the game. “I’ll talk to Holts and [goaltending coach Mitch Korn] and see where we’re at. He didn’t have a lot of shots tonight.”

Washington will likely turn to backup Philipp Grubauer, as the team has for most of the season when the Capitals are playing in a second game of a back-to-back. Even Holtby assumed that’s the direction the team would go in. That would give Holtby three more chances to tie and break the record, and he could do both at home when Washington hosts the New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins next week.

“Anytime you get a feather in a goalie’s cap who’s having a Vezina season – and arguably maybe an MVP season – it’s one of those guys that you want to play for, you want to play hard for, you want to get him that record, you want to pile up those wins for him,” Chimera said. “He’s a good guy, great goaltender, a calming influence. Going into the playoffs, another feather in his cap, the confidence would be skyrocketing for him, so it’d be good for him.”

Holtby’s 47 wins ties Roberto Luongo (2006-07 with the Canucks) and Bernie Parent (1973-74 with the Flyers) for the second-most wins by a goaltender in a season. Luongo played in 76 games in his 47-win season and Parent played 73; Holtby has just 63 starts this season. He’s been especially sharp lately, as in his last five starts, Holtby has posted a 4-0-1 record with one shutout, 1.18 goals-against average and a .953 save percentage.

“It just shows the consistency of our team,” Holtby said. “It’s been a great season so far that way. Winning is always more fun.”