Through thirteen games started by Braden Holtby for the defending Stanley Cup champions this year, the surface-level numbers paint an alarming picture. Holtby’s put up a mediocre record of 5-5-2 in those starts, and his .900 save percentage and 3.24 GAA are both comfortably career worsts. So what gives? Has Holtby’s performance really taken a swan dive after a memorable Cup run, or is there something else going on here?
Let’s start by narrowing the scope to five-on-five play, where we know a goaltender’s numbers are more reflective of their personal play than, say, the penalty kill. Below we take a look at Holtby’s save percentage on three commonly used measures of shot difficulty.
The dotted lines represent Holtby’s career average for that segment. As you can see, Holtby is currently outperforming his average on high danger shots, slightly underperforming on medium danger shots, and is right at his average on the low-danger stuff. There’s certainly nothing here that indicates a significant slide in his play, though it is worth noting his current five-on-five all-up .923 save percentage would be the second lowest of his career.
But this still doesn’t account for the play of the guys in from of him, who incidentally are yielding even-strength shot attempts at the seventh-highest click in the League, and the most rapid rate that Holtby’s ever backstopped.
Thankfully, this can be accounted for through a goaltending lens by the expected save metric, courtesy of Corsica. Specifically we can use that expected number to understand how far above or below expectations Holtby is performing based on the quantity and quality of the shots directed his way.
As you can see, Holtby is eclipsing his expected even-strength save percentage by 0.71 percentage points, which would be the second-best such showing of his career should the trend hold, and is also firmly in the middle of the pack as measured by goals saved above average.
After a long stretch of struggle, Holtby has skyrocketed back to his former self. Maybe a bit of a pattern getting beaten from the right side. pic.twitter.com/bcom5CneMa— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) November 15, 2018
All of that is more evidence to the notion that while the Caps’ ace might not be at the very top of his game right now, he’s towards the bottom of the list of the Capitals problems.