NHL Playoffs 2012: Braden Holtby's Huge Night Helps Caps Even the Series 2-2

Steven Slivka@@StevenSlivkaCorrespondent IIIApril 20, 2012

Braden Holtby saved 44 of 45 shots in Game 4.
Braden Holtby saved 44 of 45 shots in Game 4.Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Twenty-two-year-old Braden Holtby is barely old enough to legally drink in the United States.

But make no mistake, the Washington Capitals' rookie goaltender is playing well beyond his years.

Holtby was rock-solid in Game 4 as Washington evened up the series at two games apiece with their win against the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

The Capitals seem to breed NHL postseason netminders; Semyon Varlamov was the man last year for Washington, so this year they got themselves a brand new stud between the pipes in Holtby.

When the final buzzer sounded, Washington skated off the ice with the 2-1 win. Without Holtby between the pipes making spectacular save after spectacular save, the game could have gotten way out of hand—and fast.

After stealing the momentum from the Capitals in Game 3, Boston came out of the gates on a mission: take a 3-1 series lead back to Beantown.

However, Holtby was not going to let that happen.

Caps fans got a glimpse of one of the most impressive performances put on by a Washington goalie since Olaf Kolzig. Holtby saved 44 of 45 shots and kept the Bruins off the scoreboard after a first-period goal by Boston's Rich Peverley.

Tim Thomas made some spectacular saves as well for Boston, but he wasn't nearly as worked as Holtby was by the end of the night.

Tim Thomas will look to rebound in Boston for Game 5.
Tim Thomas will look to rebound in Boston for Game 5.Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

At the midway point of the second period Boston held a 24-5 advantage in the shot department and everyone wondered how long the young goalie could keep up his phenomenal play.

Every time I looked at the screen Boston was in Washington's zone coming at Holtby with a flurry of shots.

Goaltending has been dissected critically in this year's NHL playoffs. While Ilya Bryzgalov and Marc-Andre Fleury have been letting in every goal in sight, other netminders like Brian Elliot, Jonathan Quick and Cory Schneider have stolen the attention with top-notch saves at critical moments.

After Holtby's impressive performance in Game 4, perhaps goalies like Roberto Luongo, Fleury and Bryzgalov can pay close attention.

Some critics gave Fleury the benefit of the doubt because he had no help from his defense. How about the fact that Holtby faced more shots than Fleury had without half of the offense.

Holtby put the team on his back and carried them to redemption on Thursday night as both teams head back to Boston with the series tied.

The Bruins were picked as the overwhelming favorites by most due to their stellar forwards, lock-down defense and Vezina award-winning goalie between the pipes.

But that was before Holtby proved that he can hang with the big boys.

The Bruins out-shot the Capitals in every period, including a 14-3 advantage in the first period and a 13-3 advantage in the third.

The matchup between Holtby and Thomas has been a fun one to watch. With the first four games being decided by one goal and the series now down to a best-of-three, all eyes will be focused on the goaltending.

It's the seasoned veteran against the fiery rookie.

This is what makes the Stanley Cup Playoffs so special.