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Braden Holtby has been inconsistent this season, to say the least.
Holtby was expected to split time with Michal Nuevirth this season, as Adam Oates proclaimed in training camp. The first-year head coach told Katie Carrera of The Washington Post that with "forty-eight games, I think both guys are going to play a lot, and I would say when a guy is playing well, he should play.”
But Holtby started slow. After being named the starter for the season opener, Holtby surrendered six goals on opening night. And in his first four starts combined, Holtby surrendered a total of 18 goals against, including yet another game where he let in six.
But in his next eight starts combined, Holtby surrendered only 17 goals against, thanks to two shutouts. This hot streak compelled Adam Oates to start Holtby in net for 12 straight games, as the head coach stuck to his word. And the Capitals won eight of those 12 games.
However, Holtby may be starting to cool off. He was pulled after allowing three goals in the Capitals' 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers on March 10. And that marked the second time he had been pulled from goal in his last five starts. Then, on March 12 against the Carolina Hurricanes, in the first leg of a crucial home-and-home series with the Southeast Division leaders, Holtby again surrendered three goals. The Caps lost once more, this time 3-0.
On the season, Holtby has a save percentage of .909, ranking him 23rd among the NHL's save percentage leaders. And Holtby is tied for second in the NHL in shutouts with three, in only 16 starts.
At times, Holtby has been hot, and the Washington Capitals were showing signs of life when he played that way. But Holtby has gotten cold as well, and the Caps are in big trouble if that cold spell lasts for too long.