Carey Price won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender, but when the league released the full voting, there was a fun tidbit. Caps netminder/awesome-beard-grower Braden Holtby finished fourth in total voting, two points away from getting a free trip to Las Vegas. Holtby got seven second place and five third place votes.
The Washington Capitals have a bunch of free agents headed into July 1st, and there’s no player more important to re-up than franchise goalie Braden Holtby. Holtby had a career year, leading the NHL in games played (73) and total saves (1,887) while also being second in wins (41) and shutouts (9). In the playoffs, Holtby was somehow even better, having an initial 8-game stretch that was the best in NHL goaltending history.
On Sunday, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said that there is a belief that the Caps want to lock up Braden Holtby long term. Per his 30 Thoughts column:
Braden Holtby lay on his back, looking straight up at the ironic Madison Square Garden ceiling. In 73 regular season games, Holtby anchored the Washington Capitals. He did the same for 13 postseason games, offering up one of the best playoff performances by a goaltender ever. In Wednesday’s game seven, he made 37 saves. But goalies — even great ones like Holtby — can’t stop everything. There was nothing he could do to prevent Derek Stepan‘s overtime winner, the goal that ended the Capitals season. After the game, Holtby, still clearly shaken, spoke to the media.
The Caps’ power play is aggressive. They use only one defenseman on the ice, which makes them dangerous but also susceptible to shorthanded chances. A few minutes after Alex Ovechkin scored, the Caps went to a power play, but instead of scoring, they let Rick Nash race in all alone on Braden Holtby.
Braden Holtby is that good. He has been the best goalie of the playoffs, posting a .951 save percentage through 11 games. But on Sunday night, the New York Rangers offense finally broke through. They jumped out to a 4-1 lead before the Capitals almost pulled off an unbelievable comeback. For the first time this postseason, we saw Holtby crack. Washington’s faith in him, however, is unshaken. They were not interested in talking about Henrik Lundqvist, who turned aside 42 shots in Washington’s one-goal defeat.
“Our goalie’s better,” Evgeny Kuznetsov, defiant in his postgame media scrum, said. “I don’t know what you want to listen from my mouth, but our goalie’s better.”
Sporting event broadcasts come filled with narratives. This isn’t narratives in the baseless and meaningless “hot take” sense, but narratives as actual storytelling, which sometimes just happen to be baseless and meaningless. During the playoffs, narratives are thrown into high gear. Everyone likes a good story in their sports, and more eyes are on the sport during playoff time, so it makes sense to try to reel in the casual viewer with a good story.
But these stories, a.k.a. narratives, shouldn’t be told at the expense of facts. Some fact-less narratives are easy to detect. When an announcer basically makes it sound as if the Caps were the laughingstock of the NHL and Alex Ovechkin was a player not playing to his potential before Barry Trotz came around, the false narrative alarm should ring. After all, the Caps have been a playoff team, and at times a serious Cup contender, for much of the Ovechkin era, and Ovechkin himself has led the league in goals five times and won three MVP awards.
On the other hand, there are some narratives that aren’t as easy to evaluate for truthiness. Below are a couple narratives that have continued to pop up this series, whether it be on TV or in conversations with friends about the games. Being that the eye test can often lie to me, I wanted to take a deeper look.