Washington Capitals: Why Goalie Braden Holtby Needs to Remain the Man in Net

Barry Leonard@@barryleonardjrAnalyst IIIFebruary 26, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 17:  Braden Holtby #70 of the Washington Capitals skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on February 17, 2013 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Capitals 2-1.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Young goaltender Braden Holtby became a sensation and a fan favorite in DC during last season's playoffs. He played in 14 games and posted a sparkling 1.95 goals against average.

Unfortunately, 2013 did not start off well. Holtby has struggled and lost starts to backup Michal Neuvirth. However, after several recent strong showings, he has proved that he needs to be the main goalie if the Capitals hope to be successful.

Holtby's 2013 stats have been anything but impressive to this point. He has a current record of 5-6 with an unremarkable GAA of 3.37 and a save percentage under 90 percent.

He began the year losing his first two starts, allowing a total of 10 goals.

Due to the poor start, he found himself on the bench for five straight games—hardly what people in Washington expected from the supposed No. 1 goalie. However, even with Holtby out, Washington continued to struggle as a team, finishing January with a dismal 1-5-1 record.

February brought a new month and a new commitment to Holtby as he got his first victory of the year in a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Head coach Adam Oates must have liked what he saw in his goalie; the coach has used him in nine of Washington's last 10 games.

Recently, the Capitals have been playing better hockey, and Holtby has been a huge part of that. Even in recent losses to the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, the goaltender looked solid and could not be blamed.

Against the Rangers, he faced a barrage of shots, stopping 38 of 40, and was a hard-luck loser in a 2-1 game. That performance was followed by a 34-save night in a 3-2 loss against the Devils.

In that contest, the young netminder was the victim of costly mistakes by his teammates and questionable calls by the referees. The Devils were given six power play opportunities in the third period.

Before those two losses, he had been the winner of three straight games.

In Washington's most recent game, an impressive 5-1 home victory over the Devils, Holtby again looked like the goalie that made a name for himself last season.

It's hard for any team to get into a rhythm when the goalie situation is unsettled. Fortunately for Washington, it seems that the coaching staff has decided to roll with Holtby in net.

That decision will bring stability and ultimately success to a team that has found little of it in 2013.


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