Braden Holtby Named NHL’s Second Star for December

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Graphic via the Caps

Despite going undefeated in regulation last month, Braden Holtby was named merely the NHL’s second star for December. He finished runner up to Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau. Holtby posted a 9-0-1 record with one shutout, a 1.69 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage in 11 scintillating appearances.

Holtby is currently the hottest goaltender in the NHL. He has 24 wins, best in the league. His 1.92 goals against average is the lowest among goalies to play more than 15 games.

“He’s been our MVP from day one on,” Capitals head coach Barry Trotz said earlier this month.

December only added to Holtby’s sparkling numbers. The Holtbeast led the Capitals to a nine game winning streak. He has not lost a contest in regulation in 18 games, the longest such streak in the NHL in the last five years.

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Photo: Jamie Sabau

The Capitals made it nearly halfway through the 2015-16 NHL season without suffering back-to-back loses, winning nine straight games in December. But with Brooks Orpik, John Carlson, and Jay Beagle missing from the lineup, the Caps dropped two games in a row against two of the league’s worst teams. The games were close, with Brandon Saad scoring with just over a minute left to send Saturday’s game against Columbus to a shootout after the Capitals almost came back against Carolina on Thursday. Still, the loses are disappointing for a team that desperately wants to raise the Stanley Cup this year.

“It’s going to have to be better, it’s that simple,” goalie Braden Holtby, who took just his sixth loss of the season against Columbus, said.

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As the Capitals finished off their ninth straight win on Wednesday, the sellout crowd roared in approval of the NHL’s best team. But 20 minutes later, there were only hushed gasps from the press corps as head coach Barry Trotz explained how costly Washington’s 28th had been.

Jay Beagle, who left the game with 5:52 left in the second period, will need upper-body surgery. Though Trotz refused to say what the injury was, the coach said Washington’s third line center, who has tallied six goals this season, will be out “for an extended period of time.” He is expected to be placed on injured reserve shortly.

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Just another day at the office.

And apparently I’m not done writing about Braden Holtby yet today (1, 2). During the team’s morning skate, the Caps had a drill where they shot from point blank on the Holtbeast. Just like against Evander Kane on Monday, Holtby was very much up to the task, making two sensational glove saves. Like listen to the oooohhhhhh’ing of the crowd at Kettler.

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Photo: Maddie Meyer

Tuesday, Braden Holtby joined Sportsnet’s Hockey Central to talk about the Caps’ success this season and breakout star Evgeny Kuznetsov. In a Players’ Tribune article released Monday, Kuznetsov exclaimed his love for the daytime TV gameshow, Family Feud. “I just want to play hockey, come home, watch the Family Feud, go to bed,” wrote Kuznetsov.

According to Holtby, it’s not just Kuznetsov who watches the show. It’s the whole team.

“That’s a hit in the locker room,” Holtby said on Hockey Central. “Especially before games or whatnot. [Family Feud] kind of brings the team together. It’s kind of our thing to do.”

Holtby was asked how this all began.

“I don’t know who started it,” Holtby said. “In the weight room at Verizon Center, it seemed to always be on at that time. The crowd got bigger. I’m only a part of it when I don’t play. I don’t know, you get those funny routines and it loosens guys up before the game. It’s a good thing to have.”

The rest of Holtby’s conversation follows.

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Screenshot by RMNB reader Victor K.

Monday night, Braden Holtby made 31 saves against the Buffalo Sabres and notched his second shutout of the season. It seems almost tired at this point to say it, but Holtby has been spectacular in 2015-16. He’s made difficult saves look easy. He’s stopping point-blank shots when he’s on the other side of the crease. The only thing he’s been bad at is keeping his mask on during play, and that’s probably just due to his awesome facial hair.

The Holtbeast leads the NHL in wins (23) and goals-against average (1.85). He’s second in save percentage (.935) and ninth in shutouts (2). Holtby hasn’t lost a freaking game since November 10 against the Red Wings, two weeks before Thanksgiving. In that solitary loss, Holtby stopped 97 percent of the shots (26 of 27) in a 1-0 loss.

Holtby’s getting support from national media as a Vezina trophy candidate for the league’s best goaltender, but that’s not all. Esteemed hockey nerd (and RMNB podcast guest) Dimitri Filipovic points out that Holtby is playing at the same level Carey Price did last season when he won the MVP.

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The league’s most winningest goalie on the league’s best team, Braden Holtby, recorded a shutout on Monday night against the Buffalo Sabres. It was not easy. Holtby survived two almost-goals, both of which were washed out.

And then, late in the third period with his perfect game on the line, Holtby made a glove save that we thought could only happen inside the Matrix.

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Photo: Jared Silber

On Friday night, after allowing goals on back-to-back shots, Braden Holtby was pulled in favor of backup netminder Philipp Grubauer with the Capitals down 3-0. Those goals, however, were not the result of Holtby’s poor play. Instead, the Capitals’ defense was at fault, which head coach Barry Trotz acknowledged after the game.

“I was tired of our team leaving him out to dry,” Trotz said.

The change jumpstarted the Capitals. The team went on to score five unanswered goals, easing the three-goal deficit left by Holtby and earning a victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Grubauer was perfect in relief, making a key save right before TJ Oshie scored to narrow the gap to one.

On Sunday night, Holtby once again allowed goals on back-to-back shots as the Rangers took 3-1 lead into the first intermission. Nevertheless, Holtby was back out to start the second period. This time, however, Trotz did place blame on Holtby.

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This Is What Happens When You Shove Braden Holtby

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New York Rangers pest supreme Tanner Glass learned a valuable lesson against the Washington Capitals on Sunday: don’t touch Braden Holtby.

Late in the second period as he froze the puck, Holtby shoved Rangers winger Mats Zuccarello out of the crease. Glass responded by shoving Holtby in the shoulder.

NUH UH.

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Photo: Jared Silber

The Capitals don’t lose very much — they’ve fallen in regulation just six times this season. One of those losses, a 5-2 defeat, came November 3 at Madison Square Garden to the New York Rangers, a division rival. Though the Capitals outshot New York 34-22, some players weren’t happy with the way they played, as Washington was doomed by odd-man breaks against.

“I thought that was one of our worst games of the year,” Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, who took the loss in the game, said Saturday. “We let their strengths overpower ours in that game. They got a lot of off the rush chances, which is what they thrive on.”

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