Caps Need Strong Season from Holtby

By Patrick Hoffman

Not so long ago, Washington Capitals netminder Braden Holtby was the best goaltender in the NHL.

In 2015-16, Holtby, 29, won the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goaltender and also won the William M. Jennings Trophy because he was a part of the team with the lowest goals-against average.

That was clearly a magical season for Holtby. He had a 48-9-7 record while posting a 2.20 goals-against average (GAA), a .922 save percentage, and three shutouts.

He also had a strong 2016-17 season when he went 42-13-6 with a 2.07 GAA, a .925 save percentage and nine shutouts. Of course, we all know that he helped the team win their first Cup in franchise history the following season.

With all of that said, his last two regular seasons have not been great. Sure, he's put up a lot of wins (66 wins combined), but his other statistics have not been all that impressive.

His GAA the last two seasons have been quite bad. He had a 2.99 GAA in the 2017-18 season and last year, he posted a 2.82 GAA.

These are not the kind of GAA's that we are used to seeing Holtby have. In fact, despite his performance the last two seasons, he still has a career 2.47 GAA. Just imagine what that number would be if he hadn't performed poorly in that category during the last two seasons.

His shutouts were also way down during the last two seasons. In 2017-18, he had no shutouts and he had just three shutouts last season. This is a guy who usually gets a lot of shutouts, but that was not the case the last two seasons.

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Going into the season, things need to be different for Holtby. Yes, he has a team in front of him that can put the puck in the net with ease, but if he can get back to being the kind of goaltender he was a few seasons ago, it could go a long way in helping this club continue to be a Cup contender.

For this to happen, Holtby needs to get off to a quick start this season. On November 6th of last season, he was 4-3-2 with a 3.62 GAA, a .888 save percentage, and one shutout. Those numbers are awful.

He also needs to be a lot more consistent and avoid long stretches of bad play. Just take a look at what he did last season from January 20th to the 23rd:

January 23: Five goals allowed on 36 shots in a loss to the Leafs

January 22: Seven goals allowed on 43 shots against in a loss to the San Jose Sharks

January 20: Four goals allowed on 11 shots against in a loss to the Chicago Blackhawk

Lastly, the team's defensive play needs to improve in a big way. The team was 17th in the league last season in goals allowed and while that is not terrible, it needs to be a lot better in order for both Holtby and the team to have success. 

This is a new season for Holtby. It's time for him to get back to being one of the league's most consistent goaltenders because if that happens, the Capitals will have as good a chance as any to win the Cup for the second time in three years.

Patrick covers the NHL for The Ultimate Hockey Fan Cave.

He has previously covered the league for WTP Sports, Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.

For comments and hip checks, feel free to contact Patrick at patrickhoffman3530@gmail.com or on Twitter at @pathoffman35