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.
A few quick observations.
- 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.
- 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.
- Lou’s been busy.
- Four of these goaltenders have played for the Caps, a team historically considered to have weak goaltending– perhaps unjustly.
- 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.
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.
Based on his workload and the number of shots he sees per game, Braden Holtby might hit 4000 career shots-against by the end of this season.
— Peter Hassett (@peterhassett) November 19, 2013
Ha. No. That definitely did not happen. And for that reason, there’s still a little more uncertainty in Holtby’s future.
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.