With Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby on the brink of tying and perhaps breaking the NHL record for most wins in a single season, future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur has a little something special planned for the occasion.
“It would be nice to see,” said Brodeur, whose 48 wins with the New Jersey Devils in 2006-07 is one more than the 47 Holtby has now with four games remaining in the regular season.
“It’s really tough to do, so if he achieves it I’ll be happy for him. I broke Bernie Parent’s (record of 47 wins) in Philadelphia (on April 5, 2007, in the Devils’ 81st game of the season) and I thought it was pretty ironic, pretty cool. I got to meet him after the game. Later on, he sent me a little note and I bought one of his replica masks and I got him to sign it. I got the puck in a case.
“If (Holtby) does (break the record), the first thing I’ll do is write him a note or something and send it to him. I’ll do whatever he wants me to do. It’s quite an accomplishment. It’s a great record. To break any old record in the NHL is pretty cool.
“It’s a tough one. You need to play in a lot of games, you need to be on a good team and you’ve got to perform. He’s checking all the boxes. Good for him, it’s impressive.”
With 47 wins in 63 starts, Holtby is expected to start at least three of the Capitals’ final four games, beginning Tuesday night at home against the Islanders. The Caps follow that game with a home date against the Penguins on Thursday, followed by a Saturday night game in St. Louis and a Sunday night game at home against the Anaheim Ducks.
Theoretically (if Holtby wins one of the two games against the Isles and Pens), that could give Holtby the opportunity to break Brodeur’s record in front of Brodeur in St. Louis. Brodeur is the assistant general manager of the Blues.
“I think it’s great,” Brodeur said. “I know when I was chasing that record it meant a lot to me because it’s kind of a record (where) you go out and you’re the guy that won the most games in one season. You know, it’s a record that only one season you can do. You can’t overlap it over your career.
“I had a lot of chances. I had 44 wins, 43 wins and had plenty of games left to try to make it and next thing you know it’s hard. So for him to get closer – and there’s still a lot of games left for him to tie it or even go above it, that’s really impressive, especially for the amount of games he has played compared to as many as I played.”
The difference is quite astounding. The year Brodeur broke Parent’s record he started 78 of the Devils’ 82 games. Holtby is one win away from matching that record and has started just 63 games for the Capitals this season.
In fact, here’s the list:
Most Wins by a Goaltender in One Season, NHL History
48 – Martin Brodeur (78 GP) in 2006-07 w/ NJD
47 – Braden Holtby (63 GP) in 2015-16 w/ WSH
47 – Bernie Parent (73 GP) in 1973-74 w/ PHI
47 – Roberto Luongo (76 GP) in 2006-07 w/ VAN
46 – Evgeni Nabokov (77 GP) in 2007-08 w/ SJS
“He has more wins in one year than I had in my career,” joked television analyst and former NHL goaltender Darren Pang, who went 27-35-7 in three seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks from 1984-89.
“The quality of starts and efficiency of winning that many games in that number of starts … You look at the top six winners of all time and they’ve all done it in 75 games or more. It’s very abnormal and really exceptional. I was just thinking about the opportunity he has. I know you don’t want to empty the tank to achieve such an individual goal, but you only have so many opportunities to do so. You have a chance to challenge Marty Brodeur’s all-time record. Marty Brodeur challenged Bernie Parent’s and other goalies have tried to challenge Marty along the way. This is something incredibly special and you wouldn’t want to act as if it’s going to happen again because it may not happen again.”
Through it all, Holtby has kept an incredibly calm demeanor, saying the record means something to him mostly because it is based on team success. Brodeur pointed out that in 2006-07, the Devils were chasing an Atlantic Division title, which they won by two points over the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Capitals clinched the Metropolitan Division title with 13 games remaining in the regular season and clinched the best record in the NHL with seven games left.
“The importance of the games (is) different,” Brodeur said. “Sometimes you get lucky and you play teams that don’t bring anybody out. On the opposite, maybe your team is not dressing the same amount of players. You’re playing against young guys that got nothing to lose. The last 10 games it’s hit or miss. You don’t know what kind of effort you’re going to get from your team and the other team coming at you.”
In 2006-07 Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo also was chasing Parent’s record and had 47 wins with one game remaining in the regular season. He and Brodeur sat out their teams’ final regular season game. As fate would have it, the Islanders beat the Devils in the season finale to clinch a playoff spot, eliminating the Toronto Maple Leafs in the process.
“I was getting phone calls from the media in Toronto,” Brodeur said. “I was like, ‘I just broke the record, I don’t need to play in the last one.’”
The 2006-07 Devils eliminated the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games in the opening round of the playoffs, but lost to the Ottawa Senators in five games in Round 2. Brodeur says fatigue was not an issue in those playoffs and shouldn’t be a concern for Holtby or the Capitals.
“For him to play the amount of games he’s played in the last two years (73 games last season, 63 this season) and playing against the top teams all the time,” Brodeur said. “You see goalies who will take some nights off. He loves to play the game. Bad game or good game, if he gets pulled he comes back and plays hard. He’s athletic, he’s a big guy. I just like the way he plays the game and it’s been fun watching his run.
“… It’s not selfish. You want to play, you want to stay in a rhythm. For him the worst thing to do is not play as many games as possible going into the playoffs. Regardless if he’s trying to break a record or not, it’s all about winning games. I know on my part we were fighting for position in the playoffs. It was a lot different. It’s not like we had the Presidents’ Trophy or anything. I had to play 78 games to get into the playoffs.”
Pang said he sees no reason why Holtby won’t catch Brodeur and is rooting for him to play as many games as necessary to break the record.
“The schedule is favorable,” Pang said. “It sounds to me they have a pretty structured schedule and they’re not going to deviate from that schedule. But why wouldn’t you change it up to get him that opportunity to break the record? I think certain schedules are set in soggy stone. You have to be a little bit flexible, as long as the games before are not taxing. He seems like a guy who wants to be there all the time and 60 games is not a lot in a season. These opportunities don’t come around very often. I think you have to seize those moments.”
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