The Capitals have an interesting dilemma on their hands as they prepare to face the St. Louis Blues tonight at Verizon Center. Do they give goaltender Braden Holtby a start for the second consecutive night as he continues his pursuit of Marty Brodeur’s record?
Or do they give Holtby the night off and give backup Philipp Grubauer his first start since March 12 in San Jose?
If Holtby (45-9-4) was not within four wins of breaking Brodeur’s NHL record of 48 wins, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Grubauer would likely get the start, setting up Holtby to play Monday night at home against Columbus and Wednesday night in Philly against the Flyers. And that may still happen.
But Holtby faced just 22 shots in what Barry Trotz called an “easy night” for the 26-year-old goaltender and the team had a quick flight home from Newark, meaning Holtby could have been in his own bed a little after midnight.
“We haven’t talked about (Brodeur’s record) so I don’t get any sense to be honest with you,” Trotz said Friday when asked if his players are starting to pay attention to the record. “Yeah, probably personally for him, yeah I think so.
“For the group, as it gets closer I think we’ll think about it. It hasn’t really filtered into the room a whole lot to be honest with you. We’re just trying to get a real consistent game going forward.”
Contrary to popular belief, Holtby has not been overworked this season. His 60 starts are tied for second in the NHL this season but well below the 73 appearances he had last season. In fact, Holtby has been asking for more practice time over the past few weeks.
With nine games remaining, Holtby (45-9-4) should get at least six more cracks at catching and/or eclipsing Brodeur’s record and the fact he can set the record in 12 fewer starts than Brodeur is remarkable. Brodeur started 78 of the Devils’ 82 games in his record-breaking 2006-07 season, going 48-23-7. (Many people forget Roberto Luongo also had an amazing season that year with a 47-22-6 record in 76 games for Vancouver).
Which leads us to another impressive stat worth noting. With 45 wins in 60 starts this season, Holtby is on pace to shatter Tom Barrasso’s NHL record for winning percentage among goalies with 60 or more starts.
In 1992-93, Barrasso won 43 of his 62 starts with the Pittsburgh Penguins, for a 69.4 winning percentage. With 45 wins in 60 starts this season (Holtby has not had to relieve Grubauer) Holtby has won 75 percent of his starts, which would far exceed Barrasso’s winning percentage in 1992-93.