Braden Holtby may have 659 fewer regular season starts than Tomas Vokoun and 87 fewer than Michal Neuvirth, and he has never started a playoff game in his brief NHL career. But, even though Holtby does not possess the career resume of either of his two teammates from the Czech Republic, neither of them possesses the skills and personality of the 22-year-old native of Saskatchewan.
Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth cope with the pressure of a big game. But, their passiveness leaves them vulnerable to becoming rattled when the game begins to turn against them. And in the playoffs, there are many moments like these, often times in the same game.
Braden Holtby craves the pressure of a big game. His assertiveness serves him well when the game begins to turn against him, and he keeps it from spinning out of control. Against the Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs, he will be under a constant barrage from a veteran playoff team. His ability to withstand pressure will keep him in a comfort zone even when the Bruins try to make him uncomfortable.
And Holtby possesses other skills and traits that will prove to be advantageous in the playoffs.
Braden loves to play the puck and is actually quite skilled with the goalie stick. This skill will help diffuse the Bruins offense as they dump the puck into the Capitals' zone and attempt to set up their forecheck. And when Holtby intercepts the puck, his passing ability can then ignite the Capitals offense.
Braden is also very aggressive in the net. His willingness to challenge shooters will also help lessen the effect of the Bruins' forecheck, which will undoubtedly create turnovers and scoring opportunities.
But most importantly, Braden Holtby is fiercely protective of his goal. He doesn't like anything in his crease, whether it's made of hard rubber or human flesh. This quality will be very important against the Boston Bruins, who send plenty of both at the opponent's goalie.
In fact, Holtby's feistiness may surprise the Bruins, who will expect a young, inexperienced goalie to be timid in his first playoff appearance. And Holtby's refusal to back down from confrontation will inspire a physical but undersized Capitals team that needs every player to stand up to the Big Bad Black.
With all these skills and qualities, Braden Holtby will lead the Washington Capitals to success in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs—and beyond.