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2014-15 Rink Wrap: Braden Holtby

From Alzner to Wilson, we're taking a look at and grading the 2014-15 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2015-16. Next up, Braden Holtby.

Clyde Caplan

Japers' Rink Player Card (click for a hi-res version, and a glossary of terms used in this post can be found here; data via NHL.com, war-on-ice.com, General Fanager and Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com):

Holtby card

Holtby's Even-Strength Hextally Shot Chart for 2014-15 (via war-on-ice; click to enlarge):

Holtby Hextally

Holtby's Past Five Seasons (via Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com; click to enlarge):

Holtby HA

Key Stat: Holtby appeared in a career-high 73 games during the regular season, the most of any NHL netminder in 2014-15, and tied for the most ever by a Caps 'tender (Olie Kolzig, 1999-2000).

Interesting Stat: Ten of Holtby's 13 playoff starts qualified as "quality starts" per Hockey Reference's definition. That 7% quality start percentage is the highest mark in the playoffs among goalies with at least six starts.

The Good: Holtby had a terrific 2014-15 campaign, to the point of a possible (probable?) top-five finish in Vezina Trophy voting. Under the guidance of goalie coach Mitch Korn, he seemed more controlled, both mentally (in terms of responding to goals against) and physically (in terms of being less active in the crease, though he was still prone to moving a little too much). He led all goalies in games played, minutes, shots faced, and saves, and finished tied for second in shutouts and eighth in save percentage during the regular season (which included a strong .889 while shorthanded) en route to a franchise record-tying 41 wins. In the playoffs, he was even better, arguably stealing multiple games in both the Caps' playoff series en route to a .944 save percentage.

The Bad: Holtby had a relatively slow start to the season, with a .907 save percentage in seven October games and a .913 in eleven appearences in November. By the numbers, Holtby's season didn't really represent an improvement over his (very good) prior work aside from workload — while he may have looked better, the results were similar, if not a little worse, by adjusted save percentage:

Holtby over time

Put another way, his season was actually not that special by his standards (again, workload aside), with the team's improved defensive personnel and systems and good fortune helping Holtby's numbers along:

Holtby2

Holtby, for his part, saw somewhat low low-danger and medium-danger save percentages completed by an excellent high-danger save percentage. Holtby seemed to peak in the first two months of 2015 — at that point, by those same metrics, he looked deserving of MVP consideration.

Although a soft goal against in Game 7 against the Islanders ended up not costing the team, it's also hard not to wonder what would have happened if he'd been a little sharper late in Game 5 against the Rangers or in Game 6 of that series.

The Video:

The Comic:

BS Red Braden w slapshot music

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: Holtby will be a restricted free agent this summer and is set for a nice raise from his 2014-15 salary of $2 million. How much money and term does Holtby deserve on his next deal, and how much is too much for the team? He seems safely above average — but how close is he to "elite"? Has he earned a franchise goalie contract? Is 70-plus games a manageable workload for Holtby moving forward? Has he proven himself a solid playoff performer? What would it take for you to give him a "10" next year?

Holtbys