Braden Holtby has been incredible in this postseason. In two games, Holtby has let up just one goal. He has a ridiculous 0.47 goals-against average and a .983 save percentage.
The Rangers have looked pretty punchless on offense, an assertion Holtby pretty much confirmed (via the Washington Post):
“It wasn’t a very hard game for me,” Holtby said after the game. “We did an outstanding job. Penalty kills are usually where you get the most work and if you eliminate that it’s basically just making the saves that you have to make. A shutout’s one thing but a win is the big thing.”
“It wasn’t a very straining game on a goalie,” Holtby said. “It probably didn’t even reach double digits in scoring chances. I felt comfortable out there but there’s still room for improvement.”
Maybe it's just me, but usually playoff games should be hard for the goaltender. They should be lucky to escape. They shouldn't be saying after the game that it wasn't very straining.
That's where we find ourselves. The Rangers' offense is so bad that Holtby has a nice little vacation out there.
Okay, maybe it's not that bad, and Holtby should know that the Rangers did have 13 scoring chances.
But that's not the point. Holtby is way too comfortable and he is making the game look easy. News flash, Rangers offense—Holtby is not normally this good.
He's not awful, to be sure, but over the course of the regular season, Holtby had a 2.58 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage. He's good, but he's not Patrick Roy. He's not Martin Brodeur.
So the Rangers need to make Holtby's life more miserable. A solution? Put Brian Boyle in front of the net more often, either on the power play or in any situation. He's 6'7". It sounds simple, but place him in front of the net and make it hard for Holtby to see. Derek Dorsett and Ryane Clowe, if and when he comes back, need to be more of a net presence. Ryan Callahan needs to be more effective around the net.
It might not be an awful idea to put Michael Haley in the lineup, who showed he could be a pugnacious player in his limited opportunities this season. Above all, however, the Rangers need to get as many shots as possible on Holtby from as many angles as possible. Once they enter the zone, put it on net. Crash the net hard and hope there's a rebound opportunity.
Holtby is not this good, and the Rangers will eventually score. But they need to get some dirty goals. They need to muck it up down low and hope Holtby, who has just 71 games of pro experience, makes a mental mistake that gets the Rangers back in this series.