Braden Holtby has emerged as the clear number one goaltender for the Washington Capitals, and continues to shake off a rough start to the season to put his team back in the playoff hunt. The Capitals still have a lot of catching up to do, but have won won four of their last six games as Holtby’s play continues to improve. Both losses in that stretch were by one goal, as the young netminder kept the Capitals in the hunt until the very end.
Holtby has been in net for five of Washington’s six wins and has started nine of their ten games this month. Holtby started the season 0-2-0, but when Michal Neuvirth didn’t fare much better, the team turned back to Holtby and he is starting to reward their confidence in him. Saturday’s 5-1 triumph over the New Jersey Devils was the first game this season that has seen Holtby face fewer than 25 shots, and he seemed to benefit from having less work. An improving power play (four goals in two games) and the re-emergence of Alex Ovechkin as one of the best scoring threats in the league have given Holtby the offensive support he needs, and a consistently strong penalty kill has been a major contributor to the team’s recent success.
With two sets of back-to-back games on the schedule in the next 13 days, Holtby will likely get at least one night off heading into early March. If his play continues to improve, the Capitals would be wise to have him start as many games as possible the rest of the season.