CSNWashington.com Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley will evaluate the 2013-14 performance of each player on the Caps roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in alphabetical order. Today: Braden Holtby
Age: 24 [turns 25 Sept. 16]
Ht/Wt: 6-2, 203
Goals-against Average: 2.85
Save Percentage: .915
Contract Status: 1 year remaining on 2-year, $3.7 million contract [$1.85 million cap hit, $2 million salary in 2014-15]
Strengths: Few goaltenders in the NHL play with the emotion, aggressiveness and competitive spirit of Holtby, which may have been a big reason he was invited to the Canadian Olympic camp last summer. Holtby is also considered one of the NHL’s best puck handlers, a key factor in killing penalties. However, many of those redeeming qualities seemed to be drained from Holtby this season as he adapted to a new playing style encouraged by head coach Adam Oates and implemented by goalie coach Olie Kolzig. To his credit, Holtby refused to place the blame for his up and down season on anyone but himself, although he was clearly frustrated by having to share one net with Philipp Grubauer and Michal Neuvirth for about six weeks in the middle of the season.
Weaknesses: Holtby gained success in the NHL because of his willingness to challenge shooters and his ability to quickly get from one post to the other. But when comparing Holtby to Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist following last year’s playoff exit, Oates decided it was necessary for the Caps’ goalies to play deeper in their creases, allowing them to stop the backdoor passes that were resulting in goals. Each goalie handled the experiment differently, with Holtby struggling the most, allowing long-range shots to beat him in areas they had not previously. As a result, his save percentage dipped from .920 last season to .915 this season and his GAA swelled from 2.58 to 2.85.
Memorable Moment: Despite matching a career high with four shutouts most of Holtby’s moments were memorable for the wrong reasons. He was pulled five different times this season – twice against Calgary for allowing three goals on 11 shots and 3 goals on 14 shots, once against Carolina [4 goals on 23 shots], once against Tampa [3 goals on 8 shots] and once against Philly [4 goals on 18 shots]. Holtby appeared to swear at Oates as he left the ice after getting yanked Oct. 26 against the Flames and was equally upset after getting pulled Dec. 10 against the Lightning, a game the Caps rallied to win 6-5 in a shootout on the strength of Alex Ovechkin’s four goals.
Quotable: ““I never want to blame a coach for a decision he makes, whether it’s me or anyone else on the team. But at the same time, that’s a time I want to battle with the team to get out of the hole. I was a part of us getting behind 3-0 and I wanted to be part of getting us back. But if [Oates] feels it’s better to make a switch that’s his decision.” – Holtby after getting pulled in 6-5 win over Tampa on Dec. 10
2014-15 Expectations: A lot will depend on the Caps’ next general manager, but as it stands now Holtby is the club’s No. 1 goaltender heading into next season. He seemed to put his game back together near the end of this season, allowing three goals in his final three starts, and if he can build on those improvements he’s capable of having a season that convinces the Caps to give him a contract extension beyond next season.