Braden Holtby summed up just about everything he stands for with one post-game comment following his 33-save shutout over the Edmonton Oilers Monday night.
“Shutouts only matter when it’s 1-0,” the Caps’ 26-year-old goaltender said. “So it’s a good night to have one.”
On a night when the Caps could get very little offense going against one of the NHL’s most porous defenses, Dmitry Orlov’s bazooka blast from the left circle with 6:32 remaining in regulation proved to be the difference in a 1-0 win at Verizon Center.
But while Orlov was the beneficiary of a fourth-line group hug, it was Holtby garnering high praise from his teammates, head coach and opponents.
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“He’s unbelievable,” said Caps right wing Tom Wilson, who assisted on Orlov’s game-winner and blocked three shots. “Honestly, we lost that game if he’s not in the net. If we have any other goalie in the league, we don’t win this hockey game.”
Caps coach Barry Trotz agreed.
“Tonight he was by far our best player,” Trotz said. “There wasn’t even anybody in the same universe as him.”
Oilers left wing Taylor Hall, who was stopped a team-high six times by Holtby, said the Caps goalie was the difference.
“I think he stood up and played a great game for them and won the game,” Hall said.
The shutout was Holtby’s first of the season and 21st of his career. And it came after he had an unexpected visitor disrupted his pregame routine. During warmups Holtby was in the splits in the faceoff circle when Justin Williams inadvertently backed into him, falling Holtby’s head and back.
“I was skating backwards and all of a sudden I was on his head,” Williams said. “It happens. Everybody’s got a different routine here. It was pretty sharp, wasn’t it?”
Williams won a Stanley Cup with Cam Ward in Carolina and two more with Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles and sees a special quality in Holtby.
“I’m learning a lot about him in the first 20 games here,” Williams said. “I’ve played with a lot of great goaltenders and you can always tell when they’re on their game and they’re not going to let one in. He had that sparkle today and the more I get to know him the more I’ll see it.”