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‘It’s a pinball machine out there,’ and Capitals’ Braden Holtby has been on tilt

April 20th, 2017 at 2:37 PM
Aggregated By Sports Media 101

If it looks as if Braden Holtby is battling the puck at the moment, it’s because he is. Perhaps none of the 14 goals he has allowed over the course of four games of this playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs is particularly egregious. And he was, in some ways, the Washington Capitals’ savior during a crucial two-man disadvantage that began the third period of Game 4 Wednesday night at Air Canada Centre.

“It was nice to feel the puck a bit,” Holtby said. “There wasn’t many in the first two periods that were clean.”

With this enthralling series tied at two games apiece heading back to Verizon Center Friday night, one of the Capitals’ obvious strengths â?? Holtby, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL’s best goalie, and a candidate again this year â?? has become a bit of a wobbly question mark. How did that happen?

“It’s one of those types of stretches,” Holtby said after a 5-4 win Wednesday, “where every bounce seems to be going the wrong way.”

Those are the words of a goalie who’s unsure of himself. And he isn’t the only one with such an assessment. That 5-on-3 with which the Maple Leafs opened the third period? It might have been the only thing that kept Holtby on the ice for the entirety of Game 4. This all-star stud, the man who has provided unquestioned stability to what had been a volatile position in Washington, was shaky enough to that point that Capitals officials discussed putting in backup Philipp Grubauer to start the third period.

But it wouldn’t have been fair to introduce Grubauer to playoff hockey with his team down two men. So Holtby remained, and his best work came in those two minutes, when he made five saves. But make no mistake: This is a situation that bears watching.

Holtby knows his position, knows how he feels, …

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Tags: Barry Trotz Braden Holtby, Braden Holtby, Braden Holtby Barry Trotz, Braden holtby Capitals, Capitals Braden holtby

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