Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Capitals Holtby struggling early

Washington Capitals netminder Braden Holtby is probably the only player at the roster with expectations as high as Alex Ovechkin's coming into the season.
Ok, maybe not as high, but certainly a close second.
Holtby captured the admiration of Capital's nation last spring with the best playoff performance from a Capitals goaltender since Olaf Kolzig's heroics during Washington's run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998.
Holtby turned in a save percentage of .935 and a goals against average of 1.95 in 14 games against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins and Eastern Conference number one seed, the New York Rangers.
His performance through two games this season has been nothing like what Holtby turned in just eight months ago.
The 23-year old has given up 10 goals on 73 shots against the Lightning and Jets. Holtby has been out of position on several goals and has reacted late to a few others.
The first and fifth goals given up against the Lightning were bad goals, according to Holtby. Holtby lost sight of the puck on Eric Brewer's opening tally and was out of position on an odd-man break in the third period on Cory Conacher's goal that made the score 5-3.
Bad positioning and instincts were Holtby's downfall, again, against the Jets. Holtby was out of position and reacted late to react to a shot by Andrew Ladd from the mid-slot on a first period power play with Ladd wide open. Holtby also miss played a deflection by Jim Slater with less than a minute to go in the second period. Holtby turned his head to the right, momentarily leaving his five-hole open which allowed the puck to go in.
Goalies have bad games all the time, but one thing that was so remarkable about Holtby during the playoffs was his ability to bounce back from a bad game. After dropping Game 1 to Boston in overtime, Holtby stopped 43 of 44 shots in Game 2 as the Caps tied the series. He stopped 44 of 45 shots in Game 4 after dropping Game 3 to the Bruins, and after giving up two late goals in Game 5 against the Rangers in Madison Square Garden, Holtby responded with 30 saves and gave up one goal in Washington's Game 6 win.
That bounce back ability did not show last night.
Michael Neuvirth will start tomorrow night against the visiting Montreal Canadians in what was probably a scheduled start. With Oates's declaration last week that both goalies will need to play a lot in a short season, Holtby is sure to get his chances.
But, if he continues to falter, he may find himself in the position Neuvirth is in right now. Trying to fight his way back to the top of the depth chart.

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