Washington Capitals No.1 goalie, Braden Holtby, is primed for a spectacular 2013-14 NHL season. He has the makings of someone who could become a household name along with Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Brodeur.
The Capitals promoted Olie Kolzig to head goaltender coach this week, and that gives Holtby a chance to learn directly from a Washington legend. Kolzig is the ideal mentor for Holtby and will solidify his young protege’s game, filling in the missing pieces. Not that there is too much missing.
Hotlby, 23, is unflappable between the pipes and displays the kind of in-your-face confidence that every NHL goalie should have. He sees every puck that eludes him as a personal insult. Get an easy goal by him, and he becomes a brick wall.
His regular season career stats are impressive with a GAA of 2.39 and a save percentage of .923. That is up there with the best goalies in the league. Granted, Holtby only has 57 games to his name so far, but if he maintains those numbers over the next decade or so, he’ll be one for the ages.
Holtby first won the hearts of the D.C. faithful during his 14-game playoff stint at the end of the 2011-12 season. He recorded a GAA of 1.95 and a save percentage of .935 during that run. He was the main reason the Caps had any kind of momentum in the postseason that year.
The management responded by starting him in 36 of the 48 regular season games in 2012-13. And he put up some good stats too, with a GAA of 2.58, a save percentage of .920 and a career-high four shutouts as the Caps rebounded from a poor start to make the playoffs again.
The first-round playoff series against the New York Rangers started out great for Holtby, but ended on a sour note with the Caps losing 5-0 in a Game 7 at the Verizon Center. Holtby perhaps showed his young age in that final game and performed poorly, but so did the rest of the team. A bagel was unacceptable in a Game 7, regardless of their goalie’s bad day at the office.
Kolzig has likely sat down with Holtby and gone over that Game 7 video a few times. In the postseason, it’s all about not doing what your opponent expects you to do. A goalie needs to reinvent himself for the playoffs, especially for a deciding game. The Rangers had Holtby’s number that day, and once the third goal went in, there was no coming back for the Capitals.
Kolzig is the kind of guy who will teach Holtby a few tricks of the trade, especially during the playoffs.
It’s Holtby’s on-ice demeanor and his unstoppable confidence which rubs off on the rest of his team. It’s hard to fathom that he is only 23 and only has a handful of games to his name. However, he can be instrumental in helping the Capitals get their hands on their first Stanley Cup.
Expect Holtby to have his best NHL season to date.