Are The Washington Capitals Riding Braden Holtby Too Hard?

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Capitals came away with their biggest win of the season on Thursday night, absolutely decimating the Florida Panthers by a score of 7-1. While a game like that typically doesn’t focus on the goaltender of the winning side, it’s a topic worth talking about.

Braden Holtby was between the pipes for the Caps again on Thursday. It was his 11th consecutive start.

Holtby burst onto the scene for the Capitals in last year’s postseason. He’d been up and down with the Capitals in two seasons prior to this year, but he shined in the playoffs in 2011-2012. He finished with a 1.95 GAA and a .935 goals-against average. Those types of numbers are unheard of for a guy with as little experience as Holtby had prior to last year’s playoffs.

This year, Holtby came into the season as the unquestioned started for the Capitals. With 15 starts this year, he’s already set a new career high for games started. His previous high was 12, back in 2010-2011.

His numbers on the season are pretty solid. He has nine wins, a .911 save percentage and a GAA of 2.87. Those aren’t eye popping numbers, but they’re solid, especially when you consider the type of start this Capitals team has endured. They thought his start was good enough to hand him a two-year contract extension, anyway.

Holtby’s found his groove of late, as the Capitals have improved greatly over the last stretch of games. He has two shutouts in his last five starts, and allowed just the one goal against the Panthers on Thursday. He’s been strong for them. But are the Capitals wearing him out too early this season?

Thursday night was Holtby’s 11th consecutive start. Having 15 starts on the year isn’t overworking, but 11 consecutive starts in goal is the longest the Capitals have seen in their organization since 2003.

Not that Michal Neuvirth has done much to convince the Capitals that Holtby needs a night off. He’s just 1-4 on the year and has struggled quite a bit. You can understand why the Capitals continue to roll with Holtby. Especially now that he’s starting to find his groove.

But if Holtby goes another few starts consecutively, there may be some questions asked about whether or not the Caps are riding him too hard. Eleven consecutive starts isn’t unheard of, but it can be taxing. It will be interesting to see if people start to pay more attention to how much time Holtby logs between the pipes moving forward.

 

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