Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Will Braden Holtby continue to struggle?
For Braden Holtby, the playoffs have been a microcosm of his 2013 season.
On some nights, he is fantastic. This was the case in Games 1 and 2 of this series when Holtby yielded only one goal despite facing 60 shots. In Game 2, Holtby collected his first career playoff shutout and out played the reigning Vezina trophy winner, Henrik Lundqvist.
Holtby had a phenomenal .986 save percentage through the first two games.
Then you have nights like Holtby had in Games 3 and 4 in Madison Square Garden. Holtby, looking nothing like the goalie who was so spectacular for the Caps a year ago, gave up eight goals against just 56 shots as the New York Rangers evened the series up.
Holtby's save percentage in Games 3 and 4 was a rather average .875.
Obviously, that is not nearly good enough for the Caps to beat a team like the Rangers.
Certainly, there were some mitigating circumstances. The Rangers played much better at MSG. In Game 3, the Caps' defense allowed too many Rangers easy access to the front of the net. Arron Asham is not a goal scoring threat. Still, you cannot leave a guy like that unchecked in front of the net or bad things will happen.
Nevertheless, Holtby did not look sharp in Game 3. Brian Boyle's game-tying goal was somewhat soft. Derick Brassard's goal was not soft, but the Holtby from the 2012 playoffs would have probably made that save.
In Game 4, Holtby kept the Caps in the game for a couple of periods with his stellar play. But he also made a massive blunder that led to the Rangers first goal, a goal that really changed the momentum and tempo of the game.
Dan Girardi's power-play goal in the first minute of Game 4 is another example of a save that, perhaps, Holtby should have made. Yes, Brassard made a great pass to set up the shot. Still, the Holtby from a year ago might have made that save.
The play of Holtby might be the biggest question mark as the series heads to the home stretch. Will we get the Holby from Games 1 and 2—who looked a lot like he did in the 2012 playoffs—or will we get the Holtby from Games 3 and 4—who looked a lot like the goaltender who struggled at times this season?
If it is the former, the Caps should be just fine.
If it is the latter, the Cap are going to be finished.