There are some moments in sports that simply do not translate from reading a box score. On paper, Braden Holtby had another impressive game. On the ice, Holtby’s penalty shot save on Carl Hagelin in the third period was the defining moment of the Caps two-game homestand that now has them one win away from reaching the conference finals.
With the team clinging to a 2-1 lead in the game’s final frame, a long-range pass launched Carl Hagelin of the New York Rangers on the breakaway. In desperation, Mike Green hooked Hagelin down from behind. The referee’s arm shot up instantly and when the whistle blew, no one in the arena was surprised to see him point to center ice.
Hagelin was going to get a penalty shot.
“You’re going in there thinking you’re going to score, and that was my thought process,” Hagelin said.
For most people this would have been a nerve-wracking moment, but not for Holtby, the Caps unflappable netminder. With ice-water running through his veins, Holtby watched as Hagelin skated in, deked to the backhand and tried to lift the puck up into the top shelf.
The glove was there waiting even before Hagelin could get the shot off.
“I was just trying to be patient,” Holtby said. “He’s a fast guy so he probably wanted to use his speed somehow.”
“I wanted to fake shot and then bring it to my backhand and he was in the split there and he made a good save,” Hagelin said.
Holtby plucked the shot neatly out of the air from the splits and coolly tossed it away like a used tissue.
During the regular season, goalies receive scouting reports on a shooter’s penalty shot tendencies to prepare in the event of a shootout. With no shootout in the playoffs, however, a penalty shot is not something teams prepare for.
With no scouting report, Holtby was working on instinct alone and boy did he make it look good.