Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby followed a Vezina Trophy season with an even better one.
Expectations were high for Braden Holtby going into the 2016-17 season. Coming off a Vezina Trophy season, the Washington Capitals goaltender proved his 2015-16 season was not a fluke. In fact, Holtby did even better this season than last season.
While he most likely won’t repeat as the Vezina Trophy winner, he’s still a finalist. Holtby has inserted himself into the conversation for best Capitals goalie ever. It’s phenomenal how quickly he has closed the gap between him and Olaf Kolzig.
All stats are courtesy of Puckalytics.
- 63 games played (76 including postseason)
- 63 starts (76 including postseason)
- 42-13-6 record (49-17-8 including postseason)
- 2.07 goals against average
- .9249 save percentage, all situations
- .9365 even strength save percentage
- 27.55 shots against per 60 minutes, all situations
- 27.81 shots against per 60 minutes at even strength
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Holtby is a Vezina finalist and he deserves to be one. Arguably even more so than last year. Last season, Holtby’s case was strongly built around wins. This season, he once again led the NHL with 42 wins. But this time around, Holtby had much better numbers. His .9249 save percentage ranked third among all goalies with at least 1,500 minutes during all situations.
Also, Holtby’s .9365 even strength save percentage was third among goalies with at least 1,500 minutes at five on five. Yes, he benefitted from facing a low number of shots at even strength and during all situations. However, Holtby had to stop a lot of shots from in close. He was nearly perfect from low danger areas. There’s not much more to say about his regular season other than Holtby set the bar high for himself and managed to fly over it.
As great as his regular season was, that’s how poor he was against the Pittsburgh Penguins. To be fair to him, the Pens have made three of the four goalies they’ve faced look silly. And Pittsburgh has faced the likely Vezina Trophy winner (Sergei Bobrovsky), perhaps the best goalie not named a Vezina finalist (Craig Anderson) and the Conn Smythe favorite entering the Stanley Cup Finals (Pekka Rinne). So maybe the Penguins are doing something right.
Still, if you want to point the finger at any one player (which you shouldn’t do), Holtby’s the most obvious candidate. Had he been his usual self against the Penguins, the Capitals are probably playing for the Stanley Cup.
Technically, Philipp Grubauer had a slightly better season than Holtby. This means the Capitals should trade the latter, right? Nope. Stop it. Don’t even think about it. It sucks the Caps will lose Grubauer, but you don’t trade a goalie just because he’s bad over a six game period. Even with his worst postseason save percentage yet (.909), Holtby still has the second best postseason save percentage of all-time. The larger sample size suggests what happened against the Penguins was a fluke.
Moving forward, Holtby’s in his prime and he’s proven he’s an elite goaltender. The argument can be had maybe having an elite goalie isn’t always a good thing. They mask mistakes. Mistakes are much easier to notice and fix when goals happen because of them. Elite goalies don’t allow goals. There’s the catch 22. But yeah, the Capitals shouldn’t trade Holtby.
Has Holtby surpassed Kolzig as the best goalie in franchise history in your book? If not, what more does he have to do (other than win a Stanley Cup)? Who would you like as his backup next year? Discuss these questions and more in the comments, if you please.