Photo: Patrick Smith
Braden Holtby lay on his back with his eyes glazed over looking at the rafters of Madison Square Garden. Derek Stepan celebrated in the corner as the New York Rangers headed to the Eastern Conference Final. Holtby had posted one of the best postseasons performances in National Hockey League history with a save percentage of .944 and a goals against average of 1.71 over 13 games. He had kept the Capitals afloat all playoffs, but he finally cracked.
A year later, Holtby comes into the postseason on a team with one of the best assemblages of talent we’ve seen in recent memory. Holtby is still the Washington Capitals’ rock, but he no longer has to do everything himself. Last year, Holtby played in 73 games, the most of any goalie in the league. As usual, Holtby handled the pressure well, but there was a lot of it. This season, the Caps were able to play Braden less. With a strong backup in Philipp Grubauer, Washington didn’t need Holtby to win every single night. In return, he delivered a Vezina-caliber performance, matching Martin Brodeur for the most victories in a single season. But come Thursday night, Playoff Braden will return.
“There’s something about Holts,” Nate Schmidt said. “Even just watching the last two days of practice. He’s incredibly dialed in. He kicked it into another gear.”
Last night, Braden Holtby tied Martin Brodeur’s all-time single season wins record. At times, 48 wins seemed like it’d be an easy mark to reach for the Holtbeast, but after the Caps lost three of their last four games, the Caps goaltender had to win his final scheduled start just to tie.
That drama and doubt fueled the Caps’ to one of their most convincing wins of the season, a 5-1 beatdown of the Blues, in St. Louis. It also meant one big celebration with their hairy goaltender.
At the end of the game, the Caps mobbed Holtby in the crease and gave him a giant group hug.
Photos: Scott Rovak
Multiple Capitals made history Saturday night in St. Louis. All eyes were on Braden Holtby — including Martin Brodeur’s — as he attempted to tie the Hall of Fame goalie’s record of 48 wins in a single season. With a 5-1 victory, he did just that. Brodeur took 78 games to reach the mark. Holtby did it in just 66 games. Time for class photos!
Saturday was a glorious night for Caps fans. Alex Ovechkin scored a hat trick, hitting the 50-goal plateau for the third straight season. He is the first player in National Hockey League history to hit the half-century mark in three straight seasons twice.
Fittingly, Nicklas Backstrom assisted on all three of Ovi tallies, giving the Swedish pivot 50 assists in an injury-shortened campaign. Ovi aknowledged him on Instagram after the game.
You guys, it finally happened. With the Caps 5-1 win over the St. Louis Blues, Braden Holtby just tied Martin Brodeur’s single-season record for wins, a record Brodeur’s held for nine years. Holtby reached 48 wins in 12 fewer games than Brodeur, who was in attendance to see the feat.
The Capitals mobbed Holtby after the game to celebrate.
Braden Holtby has been chasing Martin Brodeur’s all-time single season wins record of 48. Weeks ago, it seemed like a mere formality that Holtby would eclipse the mark and become the new record holder. Then the last several weeks happened. Holtby failed to win in 7 of his last 16 games and two of his last three. Coming into the Penguins game, Holtby would have to win his final two starts to beat Brodeur.
Which is why when the Caps wanted to give Holtby a gift and honor him pre-game, the Holtbeast wanted nothing to do with it.
Braden Holtby sat at the far end of the Capitals locker room for a few minutes, staring straight ahead. As reporters began to file in, Holtby walked out of the room to gather himself, returning about 10 minutes later. Earlier in the night, he held a 3-1 lead against the New York Islanders, just 13 minutes away from tying Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur for the most wins in a single season. With the Capitals possessing the best third period goal differential in the league and a significant shot advantage, Verizon Center roared as every save put him closer to the NHL record of 48 wins.
But in the final minutes, Holtby buckled, making an elementary miscue that ended up in the back of his net, putting the Islanders within one.
“I just, I made a mistake and it changed the momentum,” a dejected Holtby said of the play after the game. “It was just one of those plays I got caught between covering it and putting it in the corner, and when you’re in between decisions, it never ends up well.”
Wednesday night in Philadelphia, Holtby got a roughing minor, his third minor penalty of the year, after Sean Couturier got a wee bit too close to Holtby’s cage.
Braden Holtby inched closer to history tonight. After making 22 saves against the Devils, Holtby earned his third shutout and 45th victory of the season. The 1-0 win brings the Holtbeast three victories away from tying Martin Brodeur’s NHL record for most wins in a season (48 in 2006-07).
But if you were expecting the zen Holtby to dance a jig or pop some bottles, you’d be mistaken.
The dude looked straight bored tonight.
Photo: Andre Ringuette
With their 4-2 win over the Senators, the Caps clinched the number-one seed in the East, set a franchise record for wins on the road, and put Braden Holtby within striking distance of Marty Brodeur’s single-season win record. But Holtby wasn’t happy.
“We’re all kind of sick of the way we’ve played at times the last couple of months,” Holtby said after the game.
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