Braden Holtby had one of the most up-and-down seasons in recent memory in 2013.
After a pretty poor start to the season, Holtby played very well after relieving Michal Neuvirth in the Caps loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 7.
Holtby would end up in the top 10 in several key categories for goaltenders, including wins with 23 (good for fourth), saves with 1,033 (good for eighth) and shutouts with four (good for sixth in the NHL).
Holtby's goals against average was somewhat disappointing at 2.58 percent (27th in the NHL) as was his save percentage at .920 percent (14th in the NHL).
Nevertheless, it was clear that Holtby was the Caps' workhorse between the pipes, and it was equally clear that the Caps would go as far as Holtby could lead them.
In the playoffs—and going against Henrik Lundqvist for the second consecutive season—Holtby started off very strong. In Games 1 and 2 of the series, Holtby yielded only one goal despite facing 60 shots. In Game 2, Holtby collected his first career playoff shutout.
Holtby had a phenomenal .986 save percentage through the first two games.
Then came Games 3 and 4. Holtby 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.
In Games 5 and 6, Holtby was back to being spectacular, giving up only two goals and registering a .963 save percentage. If not for Lundqvist being just a tad bit better, the series would have been over. Instead, for the second consecutive season, Holtby would have to face Lundqvist in a decisive Game 7.
In Game 7, Holtby would fall apart, yielding five goals and having a pretty paltry .815 save percentage as the Caps lost 5-0.
How Holtby responds to this disappointing end to his 2013 season might very well define how his 2013-14 campaign goes. Barring something really unexpected, Holtby will be the Caps' No. 1 goalie this coming season, and he will get the lion's share of the starts.
Holtby has earned that. His play over the second half of the regular season was, by and large, outstanding. When he is on his game, there are very few goalies in the NHL who are better.
At this point, what Holtby needs is just more work and to become more consistent. With all the playoff experience Holtby has received, it is easy to forget that this past season—shortened though it was—was still Holtby's first full regular season of his very short career.
I think Holtby's future is bright and that with a full 82-game schedule with which to work, he will continue to improve and evolve into one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL.
Here then are some projected stats for Braden Holtby for the 2013-14 season:
- Games Started—50
- Overtime/Shootout Losses—5
- Goals Against Average—2.33
- Save Percentage—.929