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For the Washington Capitals, Consistency is Spelled "H-O-L-T-B-Y"

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As long as score is kept, goals-against average will be one (but not the only) measuring stick of goaltender effectiveness. Braden Holtby has been remarkably effective and remarkably consistent in that respect so far this season.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

For a goaltender, the game is about stopping shots and preventing goals. One is a matter of efficiency (stopping shots, as reflected in a goalie's save percentage), the other one of effectiveness (now many goals you allow on a game-to-game basis).

The Washington Capitals' number one netminder - Braden Holtby - has been an extraordinarily effective goaltender so far this season. What is more, he has been consistently effective. In what might be an odd example of that consistency, consider this. Among 34 NHL goalies having played in at least 500 minutes through Thursday's games, Holtby is fourth in goals-against average (1.94). However, he is the only one among the top 11 in goals-against average who has not yet pitched a shutout.

To have a GAA under 2.00 and not record a shutout means that a goalie, even at this early stage of the season, has to, to use a baseball reference, pitch a lot of one- and two-hitters. Holtby has done just that. In 14 appearances to date (a 10-4-0 record), Holtby has held opponents to one or two goals (not "none") 11 times. More to the point, he has done so in 11 of his last 12 appearances and five in a row. The only blip on that record was a five-goals allowed defeat at the hands of the New York Rangers, 5-2, on November 3rd in New York. In his last 12 appearances since allowing three goals in each of his first two games of the season, Holtby is 9-3-0, 1.75, .928.

The scary part here is there might be room for Holtby to improve on his numbers. Through Thursday's games he is third in quality start percentage, but there remains the matter of his save percentage. He ranks 13th overall in save percentage among goalies playing in at least 500 minutes (.922), and he is 16th in even-strength save percentage among goalies appearing in at least ten games (.927). If he improves on those numbers, the league is in for a world of hurt.

Holtby has benefited from the Caps' ability to limit shot volumes, but the lighter work load in terms of shots faced has not lulled him into complacency. Like the skaters in front of him this season so far, Holtby has consistently maintained his focus and has justified the early season consensus that he is among the best goaltenders in the league.