holtby face

Photo: Bruce Bennett

Braden Holtby quietly achieved a milestone over the weekend. In Sunday’s shootout win over the New York Islanders, Holtby faced his 3000th shot. That’s a big deal. Young goalies are really hard to forecast. Half of the ones that play over ten games wash out before they hit 3000. When they finally get enough reps, we should bask in the increasing clarity.

.917 Holtby’s career save percentage
3023 Number of shots faced in career
45.5 Percentage of career shots faced under Adam Oates

He’s looking pretty good, and I think he can get better.

Here are all the goalies who have seen 3000+ shots in the last twenty years. Holtby ranks 13th out of 127.

Player Sv% Shots
Rask .928 5403
Schneider .925 3768
Hasek .924 18994
Lundqvist .920 16017
Thomas .920 12766
Cechmanek .919 5161
Luongo .919 23748
Bernier .918 3341
Bobrovsky .918 4978
Harding .918 3984
Rinne .918 8744
Halak .917 7449
Holtby .917 3023
Howard .917 7967
Varlamov .917 6180
Vokoun .917 20313

A few quick observations.

  1. You don’t see a lot of guys from the mid 90s on that list because league average shooting was so much higher back then.
  2. Also for that reason, Dominik Hasek is the G.O.A.T. While Rask and Schneider have higher save percentages, Hasek faced a ton of shots in an era when the average shooting percentage was up around 10 percent.
  3. Lou’s been busy.
  4. Four of these goaltenders have played for the Caps, a team historically considered to have weak goaltending– perhaps unjustly.
  5. Holtby is awesome, but his sample is the smallest– and therefore the least reliable.

That said, Holtby would’ve been higher on that list if not for his rough season. He’s .911 this year on 1376 shots. 229 of those shots came while shorthanded, where Holtby put up a disappointing .860 save percentage for the league’s worst penalty kill– by far.

bad PK

While backstopping the PK unit, Holtby saw more action than any other full-time NHL goaltender. His resulting shorthanded save percentage was in the bottom fifth of the league. That’s one big reason why his numbers dropped this season– and a compelling reason as to why they might rise in a future free of the Oates defensive scheme and this season’s rotten luck.

The second reason would be the tinkering by goalie coach Olie Kolzig that Holtby was subjected to, documented by Y.B.J.P. back in January. Holtby sat back more this season, playing less of the aggressive style that found him success early in his career– along with way too many comparisons to Philly goaltending legend Ron Hextall. Whether it was Kolzig’s tweaks, something else, or just random variance, Holtby’s numbers tumbled in 2013-14 down from an artificially inflated .932 before season’s start to a (hopefully) low but totally respectable .917 now.

That drop-off cost Holtby the number-one Caps goaltending spot in December– and also denied him of damn near one thousand save opportunities for one of the league’s most shot-upon teams.

Ha. No. That definitely did not happen. And for that reason, there’s still a little more uncertainty in Holtby’s future.


Source: Hawerchuk, Arctic Ice Hockey

The more Holtby plays, the more confidence we’ll have in discerning his “true” talent. No one ever seriously thought he was a .932 goalie like he seemed after last season, but I personally suspect he’s better than his .917. If you put Holtby on a team with a competent defense and a penalty kill that isn’t constantly exsanguinating shots, I predict Holtby will see an improvement. And if the Caps are smart enough to reinstate Holtby as their franchise goalie next season, I think they’ll be plenty happy with the return.

If not, we’re only talking a difference of 1 or 2 goals for every thousand shots here. Yolo.

P.S. – Here’s Holtby slashing the heck out of Evgeny Kuznetsov back in 2010.


Tagged with:
  • VeggieTart

    If Holtby has a competent goalie coach who works with him instead of trying to change his style, he could be much better. Picking up Halak vastly improved the goaltending tandem; Holtby wants to learn from the guy.

    And yeah, he’s a badass. See: Rich Peverly incident in the 2012 playoffs. See: Taking out a teammate along with Travis Moen when they got too close to his crease.

  • CM

    It’s crazy how little variation there is in that list. Especially after the first three. The difference between Lundquist and Holtby is 3 goals every thousand shots which can’t possibly have a measurable effect on a team’s performance.

    Makes me wonder if star goalies are overpaid. Or if perhaps there’s a metric other than SV% that’s important in some way.

  • I totally think top-end goalies are overpaid– especially considering the best goalies in the world are still prone to sucking in a small sample like the playoffs.

  • Ben Reed

    “You don’t see a lot of guys from the mid 90s on that list because league average shooting was so much higher back then.”

    Sure the shooters could have been better…or the goalies could have been worse across the board.

  • To be precise, I didn’t say the shooters were better. I said the percentage was higher. There are probably many reasons why: more power plays and more shots off the power play, smaller goalie pads, different defensive tactics, etc.

  • Jack Conness

    If Oates isn’t gone, Holtby will want out. I hope they pick Holtby.

  • Above average goalie. Great contract. Great attitude toward the crap he’s been put through. And lots of weird Holtby-isms to entertain the crowd. I vote Holtby in 2014! https://pbs.twimg.com/media/ArHhzpFCIAAivsj.jpg

  • Bbrams

    Caps would do good to start him the last for games.

  • Greg

    Yet one more damning indictment of Oates as a coach:

    Kill % on the road: 84.6%
    Kill % at home: 78.4%

    Remember, you get last change at home! This would seem to indicate that Oates is miserable at deploying PK lines that make sense/at optimal times.

  • BW

    That slash on Kuznetsov at Development Camp was and remains a weird moment for me. LIke, what was the point? “Don’t skate through my crease?” “Don’t get too full of yourself, rook?” I had half-remembered it as being in response to a possibly excessive celebration on Kuznetsov’s part, but it certainly doesn’t look that way in the video.

  • Ben Reed

    Well to be fair, the way you phrased it implies shooting was better. But whatever, quibbles. My point is that it’s entirely possible the comparison across eras is absolute because goalies could simply be that much better. Possible, but as you say there may be other explanations.

  • Chas

    “Bar Graph of the Year” award is now yours, but to be fair a lot of those unblocked shots came from the *stomach girgle* “perimeter” *vomits profusely*

  • Clint Petty

    +1 for “exsanguinating”

  • Clint Petty

    Exsanguination would be a sweet metal band name

  • Clint Petty


  • Diller M

    here here! more proof that oates doesnt have a clue when it comes to personel

  • Yes. Literally perfect.

  • Diller M

    I totally agree, you saw what happened to Varly when Roy and Allaire. He totally seems to have gotten over the inconsistency and injuries that plagued his time here

  • If you look at Kuznetsov’s full body of, uh, work, he probably deserved it.


  • Chip


  • VeggieTart

    Maybe Kuzya was taunting him and Holtby took exception.

  • Owen Johnson

    This reminded me of my Facebook picture during the 2012 playoffs.

  • Owen Johnson

    Or a song title for a horror punk band

  • scrubversive

    Wait, it isn’t already?

  • scrubversive

    tl;dr Holtby above average, fun to watch, make him franchise goalie.

    I am an incorrigible Holtby-fanboy and I want to see him as our franchise goalie. I don’t know if he can be top-5, but certainly above average. His aggressive tending and firey competitiveness make him enjoyable to watch. I respect his mental/psychological emphasis, even if it does make him slump at times. Also cool off-ice personality. Having a vet backup and a better D-corp would be fantastic for him.

  • Pat Magee

    He just fluctuates between brilliance and below average play too often. The kid will stand on his head making spectacular saves one minute, then let in a softy in OT. If he can get that consistency down, I’ll be 100% on the Holtby highway. #teamneuvy

  • Holtby Fan (Katie)

    Thanks for the great post Peter. A lot of helpful information. I’m haleynelijahva fromTwitter. Like I said yesterday, your posts are so informative and have so many stats. I learn a lot from them. Thanks for breaking things down like you do. I’m sure it’s a lot of work. It’s very much appreciated.

    I think Holtby is the future franchise goalie for the Caps. He is a great goalie. Very dedicated. Willing to learn. A team player. Always positive. I think Kolzig should let him play the way he feels most comfortable. It worked in the past. Why try to change it? I think that messed up his game and left him questioning his confidence. The whole mess in December didn’t help either. I hope the coaching staff gives him the opportunity to prove himself next season. I enjoy watching Holtby in net. And I enjoy his “Holtby-isms”. That’s what makes him who he is. He’s the best choice for the Caps.

  • thiazzi

    We used to be convinced that Jeff Schultz was really good.

  • Consistency is overrated

  • Saying a larger share of shots went in does not necessarily imply the shooters were better.

  • Ben Reed

    One could also say “league-wide save percentages were lower” to accurately reflect the same statistic, but it would imply something entirely different.

  • Daniel Walker

    Holtby & Alzner are two really good players on really good contracts with really great attitudes that Oates’ system and personnel decisions are making look less impressive than they really are. I wish we had a team full of guys like these two. If we offer to appoint Hunter as GM, Head Coach & President of Operations and also buy him a farm in VA for his entire family to relocate to, do you think we can get him back? I would have loved to see what Dale could have done with two talented, no frills guys like Alzner and Holts long term.

  • VeggieTart

    Which is why I’d like Halak to stick around for another year or two. I know he’s 28 to Holtby’s 24, but hopefully he can serve as mentor.

  • VeggieTart

    He owns an OHL team in Toronto. And Caps we’re 50/50 under Hunter. He also had a bad tendency to slack off when the Caps had a lead. Someone’s got to impress upon them the importance of getting a lead and then stomping the competition when they attempt a comeback.

  • scrubversive

    I like Halak a lot more than I thought I would when we dealt Neuvie. I wouldn’t mind keeping him on a similar contract, but am also concerned that whoever is in charge may keep burying Holtby behind Halak instead of developing him with more starts.

    However, I may just be cynical/jaded because of the management’s inability to effectively use our goaltenders.

  • Here’s the “full” sequence.


  • Michael Fanning

    Who’s this we?

  • Eric Schulz

    I’m not sure we need splits in order to suss out his PK weaknesses.

  • Eric Schulz

    Agree, absolutely. While I certainly wouldn’t mind a 1A/1B situation with the two, I can’t see it happening. I don’t like backing up Holtby with Grubauer next year… too much uncertainty, especially with our defense. I liked a 1A/1B situation with Neuvirth as well; I’d’ve kept them together unless we could’ve moved Neuvirth for a defender (part of a package probably… let’s imagine GMGM didn’t stupidly trade Forsberg last year; maybe the Jets, with the emergence of Trouba, would be willing to trade Bogosian in exchange for Forsberg and Neuvirth, given their awful goaltending situation. Boom, I’ll take it, fair for both sides, and then we can look for a Brent Johnson-type backup in FA, and if not, then sure, Grubauer. Instead, we keep mishandling assets.. GMGM, you are frustrating.)

  • Eric Schulz

    I don’t think his confidence is a problem; changing his style asks him to spend too much time thinking on the ice. It’s thinking, not confidence; subtle difference, but important, I think… maybe not.
    I’m not sure why Kolzig is a goalie coach… he was an overrated goalie and frustrated me every time he played for us, seeming to let in a softie every game. Doesn’t mean he can’t be a good coach, of course… but I’d feel better about his qualifications as a goalie if he hadn’t played for us. #Nepotism.

  • Eric Schulz

    You must’ve missed “best.” MAF has never been really that good.

  • Myan

    I definitely had my doubts about Holts this season and they were mostly about his mental toughness. I still have this nagging feeling that he gets shaken easily but I suppose that’s expected when you play behind a CalleJo D that gets penned in for minutes at a time, multiple times during a game. That said, his game has improved tremendously to where it was in November-December and under the right tutelage I do feel that he can be a top 10 goalie in this league. It’s time to stop the goalie carousel and Holtby is a good man to do it.

  • Eric Schulz

    YES! This; Hunter sucked for us. Just because he isn’t Oates doesn’t mean he doesn’t suck. He’s worse: he’s just as bad, and he also makes Ovechkin a 3rd liner… in choosing between two shitty coaches, I’ll take the shitty one that maximizes Ovechkin.

  • Eric Schulz

    He was careful to phrase it in a way that let the reader know that he was taking no stance on the cause.

  • Myan

    I remember the coaches at camp said that Kuzya said something along the lines of “nice try” and Holts wasn’t a fan…especially after Kuzya ran into him seconds before. BB said that he had a talk with both of them…told Kuzya that he’d get beaten up in North America for taunting and probably told Holts not to injure our top prospect.

  • scrubversive

    Hi Eric, I’ve been commenting on your posts about Green on NHL.com. Additional tangent, the words “Broad Run High School” conjure up grueling memories of cross country meets.

    Edit: Actual Hockey comment – I really liked the Holtby/Neuvie tandem. The 3-goalie carousel should have been a red flag for any Caps fan that things were in big trouble. I like that GMGM went out of his way to find Neuvie a new home, but we could have just SENT GRUBI BACK DOWN to the AHL when Neuvie got healthy and avert roster dramatics.

  • I think that may be inference on the reader’s part, rather than a hidden message in the article. (Not that I don’t include a ton of those too. Heh.)

  • themav80

    Oates is awful at utilizing his players. Both in actually forming the lines and deploying those line correctly.

    He scored dead last using the Coaching Activity Index, showing that he doesn’t even try to deploy his lines in the right zones against the right opponents. You could see it in the playoff games against the Rangers and his insistence that the team “Just learn to play through it.” Ugh.

    The Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks, btw, were rated number one.

  • JenniferH

    I thought long and hard about what to post here as resident Braden Holtby fangirl and couldn’t really come up with anything beyond what Peter so succinctly made clear here and what Holts made so stupendously clear later this night: BRADEN HOLTBY IS AWESOME!