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The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No. 1 Braden Holtby

The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No. 1 Braden Holtby

Every player on an NHL team plays a role. Some, of course, play bigger roles than others.

In the coming weeks, Tarik El-Bashir and JJ Regan will rank the 25 most important players in the Caps’ organization, from least to most important, weighing factors such as past production, future potential and intangibles.

Today’s player: No. 1 Braden Holtby

A poor postseason had some wondering if it was time for the team to move on from Braden Holtby and turn the starting mantle over to Philipp Grubauer. Here in the rational world, Holtby is still recognized as one of the top netminders in the NHL.

Yes, Holtby did not play well in the playoffs and he will be the first to admit that, but this was the first time Holtby has played poorly in the postseason. Here are some stats for you:

2011-12 playoffs: 14 games played, 1.95 GAA, .935 save percentage
2012-13 playoffs: 7 games played, 2. 22 GAA, .922 save percentage
2014-15 playoffs: 13 games played, 1.71 GAA, .944 save percentage
2015-16 playoffs: 12 games played, 1.72 GAA, .942 save percentage
2016-17 playoffs: 13 games played, 2.47 GAA, .909 save percentage

You can see that the 2017 postseason is very much the outlier. Holtby ranks first among active goalies and second all-time in career playoff save percentage with a .932 and second among active goalies with a playoff GAA of 2.00. Anyone who claims Holtby is not "clutch" or that he falls apart in the playoffs is a prisoner of the moment because that is simply not the case.

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At 27 years old, Holtby is still very much in his prime and has arguably has been the best goalie in the NHL over the past two years. Not only did he win the Vezina Trophy in 2016, but he was the only goalie to finish as a finalist in each of the past two seasons.

The Capitals lost a lot of players in the offseason. Offensively, the team needs to make up the 60 goals they lost with the departures of Marcus Johansson (24), Justin Williams (24) and Daniel Winnik (12). When a team loses a lot on offense in an offseason, they could enter the season looking to be a more defensive team. The problem for Washington is that they currently only have five defensemen and the two remaining spots will go to either rookies like Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey or middling veterans like Jyrki Jokipakka and Aaron Ness. They have questions at both ends of the ice and cannot enter the season looking to rely on their offense or defense to be the stronger part of their game.

If Jakub Vrana and Andre Burakovsky are not enough to make up for the offensive gap and Djoos and Bowey are not ready to step in and be fully dependable NHL players just yet, who will be able to keep this Capitals team playing at a level good enough to reach the postseason despite competing in the best division in hockey? The answer is Holtby.

A good goalie can make up for a lot of roster holes and weaknesses. No, I do not believe the Capitals are destined for the collapse some people foresee, nor do I think they remain as one of the frontrunners to win the Metropolitan. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. What is clear is that for the first time in years, this Washington team enters the season with serious question marks. Holtby can make up for some of those weaknesses if he can keep playing at the level we have become accustomed to in recent years allowing the team to see what it has in its prospects and where the roster needs shoring up.

On any given night, the goaltender is the most important position on the ice and the Capitals have one of if not the best goalie in the NHL. Holtby is important to Washington by the nature of his position and becomes the team's most important player because of just how good he is and because it is the one position on the team in which there are no questions heading into the season.

Check out the full list of the Caps most important players as it comes out here and check out previous player profiles below.

— No. 25 Aaron Ness
— No. 24 Chandler Stephenson
— No. 23 Riley Barber
 No. 22 Pheonix Copley
— No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly
— No. 20 Taylor Chorney
— No. 19 Nathan Walker

 No. 18 Philipp Grubauer
 No. 17 Christian Djoos

— No. 16 Madison Bowey
— No. 15 Jay Beagle
— No. 14 Brett Connolly
— No. 13 Tom Wilson
— No. 12 Lars Eller
— No. 11 Jakub Vrana
— No. 10 Brooks Orpik
— No. 9 John Carlson
— No. 8 Dmitry Orlov
— No. 7 Andre Burakovsky
— No. 6 Matt Niskanen
— No. 5 Evgeny Kuznetsov
— No. 4 T.J. Oshie
— No. 3 Alex Ovechkin
— No. 2 Nicklas Backstrom

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Prediction recap: No one saw Tuesday's defensive matchup coming

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Prediction recap: No one saw Tuesday's defensive matchup coming

Well…that certainly did not go the way many thought. With two of the best offenses squaring off against two questionable defenses, the goals were expected to come fast and furious on Tuesday between the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs. Instead, Braden Holtby and Frederik Andersen allowed only one goal between them on the night with Toronto adding and empty netter for the exclamation point in a 2-0 win over the Caps.

So this was a game that did not go at all the way anyone expected. With that in mind, let’s go over the predictions!

RELATED: WHEN THE OFFENSE WENT SILENT, HERE ARE THE CAPS WHO STOOD OUT ON DEFENSE

Fan predictions:

Wrong

After allowing eight goals to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Caps did a good job stifling one of the NHL’s bright young talents. Matthews only managed one shot on goal for the game.

Wrong

After a strong start for the Caps’ offense, no one was able to get one past, least of all Andre Burakovsky despite four shots on goal and seven total shot attempts.

Push

There was no overtime and I really liked just how bold this prediction was, so I will give it a push.​

JJ’s predictions:

Both teams will combine for at least 10 goals – Wrong

I was close though, only eight goals short.

Evgeny Kuznetsov will score a goal – Wrong

Had Kuznetsov shot the puck before he was caught on the backcheck on his power play opportunity in the second period, I may very well have gotten this one right. But Kuznetsov once again resorted to the bad habit of waiting too long to get the shot off and it turned a great opportunity into a much more manageable one for Andersen.

Toronto will outshoot Washington by at least 10 shots – Wrong

Heading into Tuesday’s game, the Caps had only managed to outshoot their opponents once in six games. Toronto had been held to fewer than 31 shots only once in five games. So what happened? The Caps and Leafs each managed 30 shots on goal. Go figure.

MORE CAPITALS: TYLER GRAOVAC'S GAME ENDED EARLY ON TUESDAY, HERE'S WHY

Scoreboard:

Fans
Correct: 0
Wrong: 2
Push: 1

JJ
Correct: 0
Wrong: 3
Push: 0

Both the fans and I are off to a roaring start. Better luck next game.

Want to see your tweet among the fan predictions for the next game? Tweet your prediction to @JJReganNBCS every game day! Remember, we don’t just want to know who will win or the score, we want to see specifics. Be bold!

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How Evgeny Kuznetsov could have changed Tuesday's outcome

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How Evgeny Kuznetsov could have changed Tuesday's outcome

With the score tied at 0 in the second period, the Caps had a chance to put the first goal on the board on their second power play of the night. Specifically, Evgeny Kuznetsov had a chance to score the first goal of the game and his first of the season. But with a golden opportunity on his stick, Kuznetsov waited too long to shoot the puck the opportunity was lost. It is an issue that has seemingly plagued Kuznetsov throughout his career and one that may have cost the Caps a chance at two points on Tuesday.

After a scrum in the left corner, the puck was fed over to John Carlson on the right near the blue line. With some room to work with, he advanced to the top of the right circle and then fired a pass cross-ice to Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov had set up shop in Alex Ovechkin’s office in the left faceoff circle and the Leafs evidently forgot about him.

RELATED: WHO STOOD OUT BETWEEN CAPS-LEAFS

With the puck on his stick and no one between him and Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen, Kuznetsov waited. He waited so long in fact that forward Connor Brown was able to backcheck and turned what would have been a very good opportunity into a much easier save for Andersen.

“A guy caught him,” Barry Trotz said after the game. “Just get it off quick. Guys close quick on you defensively.”

Would Kuznetsov have scored if he had fired the shot? Would the Caps have won if he had scored? We don’t know, but Kuznetsov would have had a better chance at scoring had he shot the puck quickly and Washington would have been in a better position to win if they had gotten the first goal on the board.

It was just another moment that made fans watching in Capital One Arena and at home yell in unison, “Kuznetsov, shoot the puck!”

MORE CAPITALS: A SHORTHANDED CAPS TEAM SUFFERED AN EARLY INJURY AGAINST TORONTO