Photo credit: @davidb22307

Holtby leads the Caps on the ice for warmups prior to Game 2. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

Holtby leads the Caps on the ice for warmups prior to Game 2. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

It’s playoff time, which means we’re in for an inordinate amount of NBC coverage showing Braden Holtby getting all zen-like on the Capitals’ bench. But what, exactly, is going through the young goaltender’s mind in those moments?

“It’s just visualization techniques, breathing techniques,” Holtby, in a crisp suit with a purple pocket square, told me Sunday morning at Kettler Capitals Iceplex before the team’s flight to New York. “It’s just one of the things I do I try to do to get my mind in the same frame every night. It gets a lot of attention but a lot of guys do it, you just don’t see it.”

Holtby’s right about it being more widespread than some think.

“I came to the rink three hours early, I had a coffee, a stretch, and I did about 30 minutes of visualization,” Olie Kolzig told CSN Washington a few days ago. “That was the extent of my preparation.”

So we know Holtby’s visualizing; we’ve heard that a thousand times. But what does that actually mean? Well, Holtby says he almost playing a game in his head, imagining what the other team is doing and how he wants to react.

“You go over everything: certain plays, certain things you’ve been working on that you want to see yourself do correctly,” he said. “It’s just visualizing what you want to do. … Try to view yourself the way you want to be viewed.”

So there you have it: Braden Holtby spends his time before big games daydreaming.

Of course, Holtby’s pre-game contemplation isn’t his only idiosyncrasy. Braden’s Holtbyisms are well documented, but the goalie is rather terse when pressed on why, exactly, he does them. What he will concede, though, is that all his little moves (whether it’s spitting water through his teeth, tapping the posts, or flipping his water bottle into the air) help him stay focused on what’s happening on the ice in front of him and nothing more — especially during tight, stressful playoff games.

“It’s routines — everyone has them,” he said. “Everyone has their little things that they do in order to refocus and whatnot.”

“I try to approach every game the same no matter what the circumstances are,” Holtby added. “The biggest way to do that is just to focus on the task at hand and do my best to block everything out.”


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  • rmontcal

    My favorite thing he does is when he snaps the puck out of the air with the catching glove and then leans back on the crossbar like NBD.

  • I refer to it as meditating.

  • OlietheGoalie

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but his post-save routine is also part of his tradition and zen-like way of playing. He ALWAYS lifts his mask, ALWAYS squirts water from the bottle into the air, ALWAYS takes a shot, then ALWAYS spits some of it back out between his teeth.

    I’ve never seen him not do this. Bears, Caps, whomever. It’s almost clockwork.

  • Danidama

    That’s always awesome to see, and it helps me feel calmer just to see it! The calm only lasts until the next faceoff, but still. 😉 Holts is the bomb. We are SO lucky to have him.

  • Not only that but I saw that it drives Rangers fans crazy on the SNY blog last night.

  • HockeyBlitz

    One game this year, I was lucky enough to have a seat directly behind the goal Holtby defended for two periods, one row back. He was utterly mesmerizing to watch. The most memorable part is at nearly every stoppage, he lifts his mask, takes the water bottle, squeezes the bottle and flicks it so a few drops arc into the air, and tracks the drops with his eyes until they hit the ice, takes a sip of water (sometimes rinsing his face with more water), then puts his mask down and returns to position. I took a video of the routine with my phone, which I’ll post if anyone cares and can tell me how to do it. The game was pretty amazing too (the Boston OT win, after being behind 3-0 in the first).

  • Danidama

    Wicked! Wish I could’ve seen that. It’s most definitely mesmerizing, even when he’s shown during a game. Hershey fans must miss him something fierce.

  • hockeyblitz

    I forgot the spitting the water through his teeth part after he takes a sip, as pointed out above

  • Ian has done a lot of work documenting these on RMNB:

  • Danidama

    Thank you! Have read and watched what everyone has done here about Holtby several times since it all began and it never gets old! 😀 Very thorough and awesome and I appreciate it.

  • troyerlaw

    my son was inspired by the Holtby visualization stories last spring, and started doing it himself. but he doesn’t always visualize positive outcomes:

  • I’ll take “getting all zen-like” over Tebowing any day of the week (and twice on Sundays–LOL!).

    My all time favorite Holtby “flair” was in one of his first appearances as a Capital:

    The game had ended regulation tied, and the 5-minute overtime failed to settle anything = shootout. After stoning one of the opposing shooters with an awesome save, he somehow flipped the puck to his leg pad whence it exploded back toward the official as if violently kicked…

    But here’s the weird part: between the post-save recovery and the puck “launch” off the leg pad, Holts’ leg seemed to have scarcely moved at all!!!

    How the #311 did he do that?

    (Needless to say, Holts & the Caps won that game)

  • Personally, one of my favorite holtbyisms is when he flips his hair and squirts his water into his hair like a stylized Pantene commercial. Maybe he’s just appealing to the ladies, but hey – if it ain’t broke…

  • JenniferH

    I like the swinging of the hockey stick and the designed for slo-mo flipping of his gorgeous locks, LOL! But I’m a girl.

  • Danidama


  • Hockeynightincanada

    Holtby is probably the first goalie in net for the Caps since Kolzig that I have confidence in just on his mentality of the game and his aggressiveness. I just worry about the defenders that play in front of him. Holtby can’t be the only guy to push the Rags out of his crease.

  • PuckBuddyDoug

    And Kathleen, it doesn’t just appeal to the ladies…

  • OlietheGoalie

    Godzilla II.