From Alzner to Wideman, we're taking a look at and grading (please read the criteria below) the 2010-11 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2011-12. Next up, Braden Holtby.
#70 / Goalie / Washington Capitals
Sep 16, 1989
$637,777 cap hit in 2010-11; $637,777 in 2011-12
|Regular Season (NHL)
|Regular Season (AHL)
Key Stat: Holtby posted a 0.964 save percentage in his last nine starts.
Interesting Stat: Holtby posted a 0.942 save percentage on the penalty kill in 14 games.
The Good: Had you told a Caps fan at the beginning of the season that the goalie that would lead the team in all boxcar stats would not be named "Semyon Varlamov" or "Michal Neuvirth", you would have likely surmised that the Caps acquired a veteran goaltender in a trade. And a good one at that. Never in anyone's wildest dreams would they ever have expected a rookie named Braden Holtby to show up as the Caps stats leader.
And no doubt, his boxcar stats are impressive, as he amassed a 10-2-2 record with a 1.79 GAA and, most importantly for a goaltender, a 0.934 save percentage. Before some claim that Holtby did this against easier competition, he amassed a 7-0-1 record against opponents that made the playoffs. Not bad for a rookie mid-season call-up.
Just as important as his stats was the improvement he made as the season progressed. He rebounded from some ugly November performances in his first call-up to put together a very impressive string of games in January, going 2-0-1. And when his January call-up ended with Holtby getting abused in the shootout frame by three consecutive Rangers shooters, he came back in his third call-up (six weeks later) and showed off a more patient, stand-up style en route to winning a shootout against the Lightning. The kid learns.
Holtby also brings intangibles to the table. It's unknown what sort of effort the team in front of him will put forth on a given night, but rest assured if they don't give their all, they are certainly going to hear about it. Holtby has a nasty streak, something that makes Caps fans reminiscent of an old Chinatown stalwart by the name of Olaf Kolzig. There's no better way to endear yourself to the locals than to show traits similar to the franchise's most beloved goalie.
And despite playing only 13 games, Holtby's performance showed that the Caps goaltending situation is truly in an enviable position with respect to the other 29 NHL teams.
The Bad: It's hard to find fault in a rookie goalie who dominated in his call-up situations. But there were some. Holtby's negatives begin with two ugly losses in November, which showed that Holtby wasn't quite ready yet for the NHL. He allowed eight goals on 28 shots in two consecutive 5-0 losses, the former resulting in Holtby getting a quick hook after a mere nine minutes. At times, he was also too nonchalant handling the puck, getting burned for several goals because of misplays or over-committing. He'll simply have to be more judicious about playing the puck until he gets more comfortable with NHL speed.
The Vote: Rate Holtby below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.
The Discussion: What role do you see Holtby playing for the 2011-12 Caps? How many NHL starts will he get? Should he be considered untouchable, or is he potentially trade bait given the Caps' depth in net? Finally, what will it take for Holtby to earn a "10" next season?