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Holtby named finalist for Vezina Trophy

Holtby named finalist for Vezina Trophy

Capitals goalie Braden Holtby was named by the NHL as one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy on Wednesday along with Jonathan Quick of Los Angeles and Ben Bishop of Tampa Bay. The Vezina is awarded annually to the best goalie in the NHL as voted on by NHL general managers.

Holtby, 26, put together a spectacular season for the Caps with a 48-9-7 record, tying Martin Brodeur for the NHL record for wins in a single season and he did it in 12 fewer games than Brodeur (66 to 78). Holty registered a .922 save percentage and 2.20 goals-against average. In the first round of the playoffs, Holtby allowed only five goals in six games with a .968 save percentage.

Even on a roster that boasts superstar talent like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov, Holtby has not been overshadowed by his teammates and has emerged as one of the top netminders in the league.

"It’s huge," Ovechkin said. "He’s the best goalie in the league. When you have that kind of weapon on your team, it’s huge.”

Should Holtby win, he will be the third goalie in franchise history to win the award. Jim Carey won for the 1995-96 season and Olie Kolzig won in 1999-00.

What set Holtby apart this season was his consistency. While multiple goalies looked to be in contention at different points in the season, Holtby was one of the top goalies throughout, helping lead the Capitals to one of its best seasons ever and a Presidents' Trophy.

"He's been as consistent as any goaltender in the Nationals Hockey League this year," head coach Barry Trotz said. "He's gotten a lot of attention for that not only from the records side. But you don't put a record together like that if you have areas where you haven't been that good for long periods of time, so he's been pretty solid all year."

The 2016 NHL Awards will be held on June 22 in Las Vegas.

RELATED: Capitals-Penguins: Who has the edge?

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Capitals to face Penguins in NHL Playoffs for third consecutive year

Capitals to face Penguins in NHL Playoffs for third consecutive year

The Caps are headed to the 2018 NHL Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins… again.

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.

Yes, for the third time in three years, the Capitals will play the Penguins, hoping to take down the defending Stanley Cup champions and advance out of the second round of the playoffs and to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since the 1998 season, when the team made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Capitals are riding momentum from their first-round series win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, where they fought back from an 0-2 series hole to win the series thanks to a 6-3 victory in Game 6 Monday night in Columbus.

That momentum coupled with home-ice advantage — should they choose to capitalize on that this time around — could create an ideal atmosphere for the Caps to take a 2-0 series lead before heading to Pittsburgh for Games 3 and 4.

A perennial problem, Sidney Crosby enters this series playing some of his best playoff hockey. In their 4-2 series win over the Philadelphia Flyers, the Pens’ captain scored six goals in six games, including a hat trick in the opening matchup.

But he’s not the only one creating havoc for goalies. Center Jake Guentzel is tied with Crosby at the top of the league in goals and points in the playoffs. The pair each had six goals and seven assists against the Flyers, as well as 17 shots on goal apiece.

Is it possible they’ll get stonewalled by Braden Holtby, who — despite not starting initially in the first two games for the Caps against the Blue Jackets — is rocking a 93.6 save percentage and ranks fourth in the league with a 1.66 goals against average among goaltenders who have played more than one postseason game.

If the Caps can find a spark in their offense with Holtby staying strong in goal, perhaps this could be the year they finally slide past the Pens.

However, history isn’t exactly on Washington’s side. In the second-round series from the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, the Pens hold an 8-5 record over the Caps, eliminating them both years on their way to back-to-back Stanley Cups.

Pittsburgh leads the Caps in the overall playoff game record, 38-24, and they’ve met for 10 series in the postseason, dating back to 1990-91. Four times the series was pushed to a Game 7, but the Caps never came out on top.

The one and only time the Caps have ever eliminated the Pens from the playoffs was in the 1993-94 season, when they beat Pittsburgh 4-2 in the first round before losing to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

But hey, this year could become the second time in franchise history the Caps take down the Pens.

The NHL has yet to announce when Game 1 of the Capitals vs. Penguins series will take place, but with the Wizards playing Game 6 of their NBA Playoff series at home on Friday, the likliest start date is either Thursday, April 26 or Saturday, April 28.

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 6

4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 6

The Capitals wrapped up their series against the Columbus Blue Jackets with a 6-3 Game 6 win on Monday. Here's how they were able to finish off the Blue Jackets.

A big save at one end, a goal at the other

You see it all the time in hockey, a big save on one end turns into a goal on the other and we saw it in the first period. One of Braden Holtby’s best saves of the night came in the first period when he managed to get in front of a deflection attempt by Cam Atkinson. Pierre-Luc Dubois fired a pass to the slot and Atkinson got a backhand on it, but it was not enough to beat Holtby. Less than a minute later, Dmitry Orlov fired a slapshot past Sergei Bobrovsky to give the Caps the first-period lead.

A two-goal period from Alex Ovechkin

Despite the 1-0 score, all the momentum began to swing in Columbus’ way in the second period. Washington squandered a two-man advantage which brought the Nationwide Arena crowd back to life. Soon after, Nick Foligno tied the game at 1. Just when everything started going the Blue Jackets’ way, however, Alex Ovechkin brought them back down to Earth with two goals in the second period. His first came about four minutes after Foligno’s tally as he backhanded in a rebound goal past Bobrovsky. It was an ugly goal, but beautiful at the same time. His second was the familiar power-play goal from the office.

Two quick responses

Every time Columbus tried to build momentum the Caps had an answer. The crowd and momentum fuelled Columbus to Foligno’s first goal, but Ovechkin answered four minutes later. The Blue Jackets pulled to within one early in the third period with a goal from Pierre-Luc Dubois, but 91 seconds later Devante Smith-Pelly beat Bobrovsky with an absolute snipe to the top corner in one of the prettiest goals you will see this postseason. That felt like the moment Washington declared they were not going to allow themselves to lose this game.

The penalty kill

The Caps’ penalty kill was integral to the series as a whole and it came through in a big way again in Game 6 with another perfect game. Washington killed off all four power plays they faced including two in the third period.

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