Washington Capitals: Braden Holtby is worth starting

Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

When the Washington Capitals take the ice it’ll be Braden Holtby’s net.

The starting netminder for the Washington Capitals is Braden Holtby‘s job to lose. At least that’s what Todd Reirden said about a month ago before training camp even began.

“I think, going into it, it’s Braden Holtby’s job to lose, and I feel confident in him.  I felt confident with where things were going right before the pause in terms of how his game was coming around, and I think he’ll get the first crack at it,” said Reirden.

People thought backup Ilya Samsonov would see some ice time in the Round Robin but so far hasn’t be on the ice during training camp. Teams aren’t allowed to disclose injury specifics or length to media so we don’t know what’s up with him. Samsonov had a solid rookie season going 16-6-2 with a .913 save percentage and 2.55 goals-against average.

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Holtby, who enters the offseason as an unrestricted free agent, carries a 25-14-6 record with a 3.11 goals-against average and a .897 save percentage. He spoke with the media on Friday and said he’s more focused on winning another Stanley Cup with the Caps than the upcoming free agency where he’s likely to get a raise.

“I haven’t put much thought into the free agency all that kind of thing. My focus right now is to win a championship and moving forward, is to find the next best place to win a championship with. Hopefully it is here, hopefully everything works out but you never know. Right now you live in the moment, and we have an exciting opportunity to have some fun,” said Holtby.

Holtby was drafted by the Caps in the fourth round at 93rd overall in 2008. Five years ago he signed his first extension which was a five-year deal worth $30.5 million. One of the biggest challenges of re-signing Holtby that the Caps will face is the flat salary cap they’ll be up against. The novel coronavirus pandemic doesn’t help the situation.

Holtby is ready to suit up for each playoff game and is practicing as if that would be the case.

“I think that is hopefully the plan. I’m not sure, but I think (playing all playoff games) is very reasonable. I think we’ve had enough time to rest and recover and put in some good work here to be in the right shape physically and mentally to go all out there and put everything into every game,” said Holtby.

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If Holtby can do it before he can certainly do it again. The Caps will continue practicing at MedStar to gear up for the playoff games ahead. Before all that, they’ll face the Carolina Hurricanes in an exhibition game at 4 p.m. on July 29th before opening the Round Robin on August 3rd against the Tampa Bay Lightning.