by Kevin Klein
(featured image by: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Braden Holtby has been a wonderful surprise. So wonderful, in fact, that Caps fans have mostly already come to terms with late-season injuries to Tomas Vokoun and Michal Neuvirth, and are comfortable at the idea of having the Caps’ Cup hopes ride firmly on the shoulders of the 22 year old Holtby.
This sentiment was based largely upon his first two playoff performances, after which he led the postseason in goals against average and in save percentage. In his third game Braden came back down to earth, but was ultimately an unlucky deflection off of Roman Hamrlik’s stick that put the series at a 2-1 Bruins advantage.
Holtby, however, has one glaring deficiency through two games: the bad goal. The soft goal. The he-shoulda-had-that-one goal. You know the one. His early-series heroics perhaps shadowed this fact, but the time is now for light to be shed:
In 3 games, all of them decided by 1 goal, Braden Holtby has let in a bad goal in each.
Below, find pictured the overtime shot that snuck through Braden and gave the Bruins a 1-0 series lead.
Chris Kelly is firing from an angle, from above the circles, without a screen on the goaltender. Seemingly locked in the entire night, this is one Braden Holtby should have had. In fact, it was one that he did have numerous times. Pictured below, find the first shot of the game, off the stick of Tyler Seguin.
This shot is essentially a mirror image of the game winner. Slapper from the top of the circles, no screen. And Tyler Seguin is a better shooter to boot. Seguin’s shot ended up in Holtby’s gut; an easy save. But in overtime Holtby challenged the shooter just a shade too much, and let a shot sneak past him that had no business being in the back of the net.
Fast forward to game 2, another game in which Holtby performed above expectations. In fact, he only let in one goal for the second game in a row. But that goal? Oh, that was bad.
Holtby’s aggressive preference is well-documented by now. In fact, if you have a look at our Holtby post from earlier this week, you’ll find many screen shots that are eerily similar to the one above. Look at the situation. Very tight hockey game, the Capitals with their first lead of the series. The defense has played well in front of him all game, and they only need to hold on for another 7 minutes to take this one home.
But, when a puck squirts lose, Holtby lunges out of his crease to try to make a play on it. The result? Puck is in the back of the net. As it usually is when Holtby tries this maneuver.
What if Holtby didn’t lunge? Well, based on the screenshot above, he’d likely have faced an unscreened backhander from a forward being backchecked, from about 7 feet out. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
And finally, game 3. 4 goals were scored on Holby, but it was the first that was the most worrisome.
Again, a shot from the top of the circle, this time a wrister. Again, unscreened. Again, the puck is in the back of the net. There’s no defense for this one. A shoddy goal. Peverly wasn’t even shooting with momentum, instead firing against his body, probably getting about 75% of the english on that shot as he is capable of.
So, as good as Braden has been, he needs to be better. These are the playoffs, where the importance of every goal is magnified. And for Holtby to have given up goals of these nature in each of the first three games, is not a good thing.
Also worth noting, is that 2 of these 3 goals occurred within the first 90 seconds of a period. The Bruins 3rd goal in game three— one that almost made it onto this list— also occurred within that period’s first 90 second. This is a worrisome trend.
The good news? Well, if Braden can eliminate this tendency, he may damn well be unbeatable.
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