After goaltender Braden Holtby allowed three goals on 14 shots in the Capitals’ 6-2 loss to the Penguins on Saturday night, Washington Coach Barry Trotz said that Holtby will start a pivotal Game 3 in Pittsburgh on Monday.
“Why would you think otherwise?” Trotz said.
Holtby was pulled from the game after two periods with Washington down 3-1. Goaltender Philipp Grubauer made his first appearance of the postseason, and coming in cold, he allowed two goals on nine shots against. The Capitals are now in a two-games-to-none hole in this Eastern Conference semifinal as the series shifts to Pittsburgh for the next two games.
With the season on the line, Trotz is confident that Holtby can backstop the Capitals to a comeback.
“He probably hasn’t had his series to this point,” Trotz said. “But I do know this: His body of work has been excellent. His mental toughness is excellent. I think he has the ability to park things, and he’ll park it. And he’ll be the difference in this series.”
Holtby won the Vezina Trophy last season as the league’s top goaltender, and he’s a finalist for the award again this season after winning 42 games with a .925 save percentage and a 2.07 goals against average. In past postseasons, Holtby was stellar with a .937 save percentage and a 1.87 goals against average in 46 playoff games. In eight games this postseason, he has a .911 save percentage with a 2.62 goals against average.
While Washington allowed the fewest goals per game in the regular season, the team has now allowed the most in the playoffs of any team still standing with 3.13 per game. Not all of that falls on the goaltending.
“We probably should stop giving up breakaways and two-on-ones and help him out a little bit,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said on Saturday night.
Holtby’s play was criticized in the Capitals’ first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs after he allowed four goals in three straight games. After a 3-2 Game 1 loss against Pittsburgh, Holtby said he should’ve stopped the first and third goals and “that’s the difference in the game.” On Saturday night, he felt he could’ve prevented Jake Guentzel’s goal that gave the Penguins a 3-1 lead going into the third period.
“He’ll tell you that he can be better,” Trotz said.
“The playoffs are made of big moments,” Holtby said. “That third goal, that’s a big moment. That’s where your goalie needs to come up with a save, and I just didn’t. Obviously, I was frustrated that I didn’t do that.”
He’ll get another opportunity Monday night in Pittsburgh.