Photo credit: Kathy Willens
In Braden Holtby‘s first full season in the NHL, he dominated, proving that his great play in years past wasn’t a flash in the pan. He may very well be the long-term solution in net for the Washington Capitals, and the first guy to carry the load in net since Olie Kolzig left nearly a decade ago. But there are parts of Holtby’s game that are still raw, and tonight, that may have cost the Capitals the game.
New York dominated the first period, but Washington almost got out unscathed. That is until Holtby played a loose puck at the left circle. Instead of going the safe route and dumping the puck up the boards to a teammate, Braden decided to sauce a pass through the middle of the ice. The puck did not reach its intended target. Instead, it was whacked down by Taylor Pyatt and eventually shot into an empty net by Brad Richards.
GIF by welshhockeyfan
Holtby’s skill at playing the puck is so strong that he is sometimes considered a seventh defenseman by his teammates, and he has even tallied primary assists on goals this season. But he needs to pick his spots better, and he needs to rid his game of stuff like this– just like he did that pokecheck that once gave Thomas Vanek an easy win in overtime.
On Wednesday, Holtby made 30 saves, good for a .882 save percentage, and made several ten-bell stops, including denying Derek Stepan on a breakaway.
To the splits! (GIF by welshhockeyfan)
The rest of this series will be decided by the team that makes fewer mistakes. If the Capitals can win this best-of-three series, they will need Holtby to not have any more breakdowns like tonight. Goals are hard to come by when Henrik Lundqvist is in the other net, and when the opponent can open the game with a layup, that’s more than just a one-goal hole to dig out of– it’s a blow to the team’s confidence.