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Braden Holtby feels better prepared to battle the Leafs' offensive approach

Braden Holtby feels better prepared to battle the Leafs' offensive approach

Braden Holtby says he expects to be more prepared on Friday night for the deflected pucks and odd bounces that have eluded him through the first four games of the Washington-Toronto series.

Why? A couple of reasons: No. 1, he and his teammates have a better understanding of the Leafs’ throw-everything-at-net approach. And No. 2, he’s worked to sharpen up specific parts of his game over past the 24 hours.  

“They are putting bodies in front and throwing it there,” Holtby said following the morning skate. “Things happen when you do that.”

Capitals GameTime begins at 6 p.m. on CSN. Puck drop for Game 5 is slated for 7.

“Some of them aren’t going to happen again,” Holtby continued, referring to all the deflections. “There were a couple that [went] off two, three things. That happens, and you just put it behind you. If that’s part of their game plan, it’s more about taking away areas [of the net]. If a shot is going to one side, it’s not about catching it or getting it in the middle of the blocker, it’s about getting your whole body there to limit the chances of a deflection.”

Indeed, many of the Leafs’ 14 goals in this series have hit something or taken a weird bounce before finding their way into Washington’s net. Just last game, for example, two goals deflected in off of skates and other hit a body in front, throwing off Holtby’s timing.

“It’s just kinda throwing it into piles, hoping for things,” Holtby said. “Their second goal [in Game 4], that went off [Dmitry Orlov’s] skate. [James van Riemsdyk) was kinda shooting for the guys’ skates in front, anyways. Don’t guess, just react.”     

As a result of the tips, deflections and strange bounces (and the Leafs’ commitment to wreaking havoc in and around the crease) Holtby’s numbers haven’t looked very Holtby-like thus far in the first round. He entered the playoffs with a .938 save percentage—the best postseason mark in NHL history. As he prepares for Game 5, though, he boasts a pedestrian-looking .907 save percentage.

Holtby is aware of his stats but says he’s solely focused on doing whatever is needed to pull out a ‘W’.

“[Bad bounces] happen,” he said. “That’s life. That’s hockey. You just have to move onto the next shot. Because in playoffs, stats don’t matter, it’s all about the next save, the next play.”

As far as getting better with stopping deflections and tips, he spent a portion of the team’s off day on Thursday working with goalie guru Mitch Korn at the Caps’ facility in Arlington.

“Trying to get the body control back a little bit,” Holtby said, asked about the session. “In any situation, any series or circumstance of events, you try and pick out trends. In order to combat some of those bounces, I need to get my upper body moving, certain areas shifting, and keep my lower body based and [on] my edges more than usual. I was just getting back to basics. Obviously, this time of year you don’t have a lot of time to work on those things. That’s more a training camp, first half of the season kinda thing. So it was nice to get out there and simplify things.”

Holtby said he’s confident that the additional preparation—plus a better knowledge of individual Leafs’ tendencies as well as what they’re trying to accomplish as a team—will start yielding dividends beginning Friday.

“You got to figure out players’ tendencies,” Holtby said. “The more you play against them, you know who’s in front, who’s where. Things like that.”

He continued: “There’s always screens every game, pucks you don’t see. You just got to find it as quick as possible. There’s an emphasis on the high forward a lot, and our ‘D’ are going to realize that they have time to front some of those pucks. And I’ve got battle harder to find sight lines. I think we’ve gotten consistently better at that throughout the series, and tonight will be even better.”


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3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

3 reasons the Caps beat the Stars

The Washington Capitals had not beaten the Dallas Stars at home since 2006, Alex Ovechkin's second season in the NHL. That streak ended on Tuesday in a 4-3 Caps win.

Here's how the Caps were finally able to down Dallas in Washington.

Oshie still hot

After going 19 straight games without a goal, T.J. Oshie has been red-hot of late with four goals in his last four games. He scored Washington’s first goal in what would become a three-goal period for the Caps as they battled back from a 1-0 deficit into a 3-3 tie through 40 minutes. Oshie also added an assist as he won a power play faceoff that John Carlson fed to Alex Ovechkin for the goal.


Ovechkin victimizing his favorite target

You knew Ovechkin would score given he was playing against one of his favorite targets. With his second period goal, Ovechkin now has 22 goals against Kari Lehtonen in his career, tied with Henrik Lundqvist for the most goals he has scored on any netminder. Lehtonen has not been in the Eastern Conference since the 2008-09 season. When he goes to sleep at night, Ovechkin is who he sees in his nightmares.

The Carlson-Klingberg duel

Carlson and John Klingberg entered Tuesday’s game each with 59 points, tied for the league lead in points among defensemen. Carlson downplayed the matchup both before and after the game, but it was clear that both players were playing at another level all game long. While both players tallied two points on the night, you have to give the win to Carlson as he had the most significant point, a game-winning goal in the third period.


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Tarik's 3 Stars: Ovechkin further cements his place in history

Tarik's 3 Stars: Ovechkin further cements his place in history

Alex Ovechkin further cemented his place in NHL history, John Carlson stayed hot and Braden Holtby was good when called upon as the Caps downed the Stars, 4-3, at Capital One Arena on Tuesday night.

The victory was Washington’s fifth in the past six games. It also marked the Caps’ first win over Dallas in D.C. since 2006.

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Alex Ovechkin, Capitals

Ovechkin scored his 44th goal of the season and the 602nd of his career in the second period to give the Caps a short-lived 3-2 edge in the second period.

The goal put Ovi back atop the league as he seeks a seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. It also pushed him past Jari Karri and into sole possession of 19th place on the NHL’s all-time list. Ovechkin has now victimized Kari Lehtonen 22 times, which is tied for the most goals he’s scored against a single netminder. (Henrik Lundqvist has also given up 22 goals to No. 8). Ovi also had a couple of secondary helpers.

2-John Carlson, Capitals

Carlson scored the game-winner 4:59 with left to play, blasting a one-timer past Lehtonen to put the Caps ahead 4-3.

Carlson also notched an assist, which allowed him to stay even with Dallas’ John Klingberg. Klingberg had two assists. Both players ended the game with 61 points—tied for the most among all NHL defensemen.    

3-Alexander Radulov, Stars

From his first shift, it was apparent that Radulov was determined to leave his mark on the game. And he did just that, recording a goal, an assist and boarding minor that bloodied Caps defenseman Michal Kempny. Radulov’s goal—a redirection of a John Klingberg shot—was his 26th and it evened the score, 2-2, in the second period.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.