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2015-16 Rink Wrap: Braden Holtby

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From Alzner to Winnik, we're taking a look at and grading the 2015-16 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2016-17. Next up, Braden Holtby.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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.comwar-on-ice.comGeneral Fanager and Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com):

Holtby Card

Holtby's Season, Game-by-Game (via HockeyViz, explained here):

Holtby game-by-game

Holtby's 10-Game Rolling 5v5 Save Percentage for 2015-16 (via Corsica):

Holtby Rolling Sv%

Holtby's SAVE Chart (via IMF Analytics):

Holtby SAVE

Holtby's Even-Strength Hextally Shot Chart for 2015-16 (via war-on-ice):

Holtby Hextally

Holtby's 5v5 Save Percentage in Six Seasons (via Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com):

Holtby HA

Holtby's Career Even-Strength Hextally Shot Chart (via war-on-ice):

Holtby Career Hextally

Key Stat: Holtby tied Martin Brodeur's single-season win record with 48 victories, and did it in a dozen fewer games than it took the first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.

Interesting Stat: At 73.9%, Braden Holtby has the highest Quality Start percentage in the playoffs of any goalie since he entered the NHL in 2011 (minimum 20 games played).

The Good: Holtby tied the league record in wins, carried the Capitals to a Presidents' Trophy (running away), was named to the All Star Game, was nominated for a Vezina Trophy, and thwarted Michal Neuvirth's attempt to channel the ghost of Jaroslav Halak. "The good" is almost so easy that it's tempting to elide, but let's resist the temptation.

Engrave that "B-R-A-D-E-N..."

Holtby was not merely a passenger on a great team, he was an engine. The Capitals were not nearly as great as their record during the 2015 portion of the season, but due to strong play from Holtby they were able to keep pace with their competition in the east before finding their game and running away with the conference in the 2016 portion of the season. The Capitals were a playoff team with even average goaltending, but they were not a runaway favorite to win the East with average goaltending, much less a team that would all but sew up the Presidents' Trophy with two months left in the season. Just look at the 2015 half of his rolling ten game save percentage. It's incredible, and that kind of goaltending erases a lot of mistakes and sloppy play by the rest of the team.

Of course, the regular season is the regular season and the psyche of Caps fans is such that we are no longer able to appreciate great performances during the part of the season in which the teams from Canada are still on the schedule. The inevitable playoff collapse hangs over our heads like the Sword of Damocles. The question isn't if, but how. Well, the Caps jumped out to a 3-0 lead over the Flyers, and Holtby looked great. Then the Flyers won two games behind two incredible games from former-Cap Michal Neuvirth. The Ghost of Halak was in the building, and perusing Caps Twitter you'd have thought the Caps were the team that went down 3-0, not the other way around. Another brilliant game was thwarted by a shutout by Holtby in the closeout game, and the choke was avoided.

It's easy to see the 3-0 lead, the drubbing the Caps laid on the Flyers to send off Ed Snider in proper fashion, and the general lack of any real threat and overlook just how good Holtby was in that series. Only once did the Flyers score two goals against him. Once. (And given his 4-21 playoff record when he lets in two or more goals.) Aside from the aforementioned drubbing, every game was contested until late in the third period. It was an amazing performance and he allowed the Caps to jump ahead and get comfortable with playoff hockey after several months of relatively meaningless hockey.

The Bad: It almost feels like nitpicking to complain about Holtby's season, but shortly after the new year his game fell off. It was a reverse of the beginning of the year, where strong play from Holtby covered up some team weaknesses. From early January until the end of March the team was bailing out some sloppy play from Holtby. Call it human nature, a lack of focus, the normal ebbs and flows of a season, but it's troubling and given that one of the most crucial skills of an NHL goalie is mental focus, it's troubling to see Holtby unable to muster the focus when the team wasn't facing in-season urgency. He wasn't alone in the second-half slide, but it was the obvious black mark on an otherwise great season. Just look at the 2016 half of his rolling ten game save percentage. It's basically as bad as the 2015 half was good, and that kind of goaltending does not erase mistakes and sloppy play, leaving little or no margin for error for the skaters. Holtby's play rebounded late in the season, but it's hard not to look at the last matchup with the New York Islanders and not seeing sole position of the NHL wins record slipping through his glove.

After finishing the regular season with a strong push and a great first round series against the Philadelphia Flyers, Holtby was outplayed by Pittsburgh Penguins rookie Matt Murray. Holtby wasn't bad, per se, but he was the second best goalie in the series and going into the matchup everyone knew he had to outplay Murray. The Caps made a huge commitment to Holtby last summer, and when you don't get the performance deserving of the commitment during the playoffs it stings (which is pretty much the argument against huge goalie contracts). Games 4 and 6 in particular featured some weak goals that you know Holtby wants back. Not coincidentally, those were the two overtime losses the Caps suffered in the series. Holtby's playoff numbers, in aggregate, are outstanding. But the playoffs are a small sample exercise and in-aggregate-greatness offers no salvation for poorly timed anecdotal failures. "Best playoff goalie never to get out of the second round" doesn't have much of a ring to it, certainly not the kind of ring the team envisioned after such an incredible regular season.

The GIF/Video:

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: One year into his new contract, and likely with a Vezina Trophy added to the resume, Holtby's position on the team is unquestioned, so what is the ideal workload given there are competent backup options? Is there any realistic trade scenario the Capitals should consider pursuing? What would the return look like? What would it take for you to give him a "10" next year?