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Braden Holtby feels better prepared to battle the Leafs' offensive approach

Braden Holtby feels better prepared to battle the Leafs' offensive approach

Braden Holtby says he expects to be more prepared on Friday night for the deflected pucks and odd bounces that have eluded him through the first four games of the Washington-Toronto series.

Why? A couple of reasons: No. 1, he and his teammates have a better understanding of the Leafs’ throw-everything-at-net approach. And No. 2, he’s worked to sharpen up specific parts of his game over past the 24 hours.  

“They are putting bodies in front and throwing it there,” Holtby said following the morning skate. “Things happen when you do that.”

Capitals GameTime begins at 6 p.m. on CSN. Puck drop for Game 5 is slated for 7.

“Some of them aren’t going to happen again,” Holtby continued, referring to all the deflections. “There were a couple that [went] off two, three things. That happens, and you just put it behind you. If that’s part of their game plan, it’s more about taking away areas [of the net]. If a shot is going to one side, it’s not about catching it or getting it in the middle of the blocker, it’s about getting your whole body there to limit the chances of a deflection.”

Indeed, many of the Leafs’ 14 goals in this series have hit something or taken a weird bounce before finding their way into Washington’s net. Just last game, for example, two goals deflected in off of skates and other hit a body in front, throwing off Holtby’s timing.

“It’s just kinda throwing it into piles, hoping for things,” Holtby said. “Their second goal [in Game 4], that went off [Dmitry Orlov’s] skate. [James van Riemsdyk) was kinda shooting for the guys’ skates in front, anyways. Don’t guess, just react.”     

As a result of the tips, deflections and strange bounces (and the Leafs’ commitment to wreaking havoc in and around the crease) Holtby’s numbers haven’t looked very Holtby-like thus far in the first round. He entered the playoffs with a .938 save percentage—the best postseason mark in NHL history. As he prepares for Game 5, though, he boasts a pedestrian-looking .907 save percentage.

Holtby is aware of his stats but says he’s solely focused on doing whatever is needed to pull out a ‘W’.

“[Bad bounces] happen,” he said. “That’s life. That’s hockey. You just have to move onto the next shot. Because in playoffs, stats don’t matter, it’s all about the next save, the next play.”

As far as getting better with stopping deflections and tips, he spent a portion of the team’s off day on Thursday working with goalie guru Mitch Korn at the Caps’ facility in Arlington.

“Trying to get the body control back a little bit,” Holtby said, asked about the session. “In any situation, any series or circumstance of events, you try and pick out trends. In order to combat some of those bounces, I need to get my upper body moving, certain areas shifting, and keep my lower body based and [on] my edges more than usual. I was just getting back to basics. Obviously, this time of year you don’t have a lot of time to work on those things. That’s more a training camp, first half of the season kinda thing. So it was nice to get out there and simplify things.”

Holtby said he’s confident that the additional preparation—plus a better knowledge of individual Leafs’ tendencies as well as what they’re trying to accomplish as a team—will start yielding dividends beginning Friday.

“You got to figure out players’ tendencies,” Holtby said. “The more you play against them, you know who’s in front, who’s where. Things like that.”

He continued: “There’s always screens every game, pucks you don’t see. You just got to find it as quick as possible. There’s an emphasis on the high forward a lot, and our ‘D’ are going to realize that they have time to front some of those pucks. And I’ve got battle harder to find sight lines. I think we’ve gotten consistently better at that throughout the series, and tonight will be even better.”

RELATED: CHANLDER STEPEHNSON RECALLED BUT NOT EXPECTED TO PLAY GAME 5

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How to watch classic Capitals games this week on NBC Sports Washington

How to watch classic Capitals games this week on NBC Sports Washington

If you just can't get enough iconic Caps games during quarantine, then NBC Sports Washington is the place for you.

All week long beginning Monday, April 6, NBC Sports Washington will be airing classic Capitals games, including multiple comebacks and culminating with the five games against Vegas in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

The games leading into the postseason re-air will include multiple memorable finishes from the 2019-20 season.

Of course, if you make it that far, you certainly won't want to miss the re-airing of the Capitals championship parade that follows.

Here's a rundown of all the games airing this week on NBC Sports Washington:

Washington Capitals at Vancouver Canucks

Date: Monday, April 6
Time: 8 p.m.
Original Game: October 25, 2019

Backup goaltender Ilya Samsonov had a rough day in net, allowing five unanswered goals in quick succession from the end of the first period into the second. But Evgeny Kuznetsov broke the Caps' drought in the final second of the second period, sparking the team to a remarkable four-goal comeback.

The Caps would eventually win in a shootout, kicking off a six-game winning streak.

Vegas Golden Knights at Washington Capitals

Date: Wednesday, April 8
Time: 8 p.m.
Original Game: November 9, 2019

The game that capped off the Caps' aforementioned six-game winning streak - and extended their point streak to 11 - was an easier win. The Caps pulled ahead early and never looked back, keyed by Backstrom's two-goal day.

Of course, games against the Golden Knights will always have a special place in fans' hearts after the summer of 2018.

San Jose Sharks at Washington Capitals

Date: Thursday, April 9
Time: 8 p.m.
Original Game: January 5, 2020

This was as wild a finish as the Caps have had in a long time. Down 3-2, they pulled Braden Holtby late in the third period, and the Sharks took advantage with an empty-netter. Then, miraculously, the Capitals scored twice in the final 47 seconds of the game to force overtime, where they won the game.

The Caps would have considered themselves lucky just to come away with a point here, and instead, they got two in one of the most memorable finishes in franchise history.

How to watch the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, Washington Capitals vs. Las Vegas Golden Knights

All-day Sunday, April 12

Game 1
Time:
9 a.m.
Location: Las Vegas
Original Game: May 28, 2018

The first team in the nation's capital to make even a semifinal run in 20 years, the hype surrounding the Capitals in the Stanley Cup Final was immeasurable. The Golden Knights hosted Game 1 with a breathtaking opening ceremony, and the two teams jumped on each other early with a 2-2 first period. 

Washington took the lead 4-3 early in the third period, but Braden Holtby struggled during the frame and the Caps fell 6-4 to fall behind in the series, as they had throughout the postseason run.

Game 2
Time:
11:30 a.m.
Location: Las Vegas
Original Game: May 30, 2018

The Caps fell behind early in the game, but bounced back to steal a close Game 2. Alex Ovechkin scored his first goal of the series, Braden Holtby was superb - including an all-time legendary save - and the Capitals headed home tied 1-1 in the series.

Game 3
Time:
2 p.m.
Location: Washington
Original Game: June 2, 2018

The first home championship game Washington hosted in years, Game 3 was as hot a ticket as you'll ever find.

Holtby was terrific once again, allowing his only goal in the third period. Evgeny Kuznetsov recorded a goal and an assist, and to nobody's surprise, it was Ovechkin who scored the Caps' first home goal of the series.

Game 4
Time:
4:30 p.m.
Location: Washington
Original Game: June 4, 2018

Game 4 was the Caps' biggest explosion. They scored six goals in the game, including three on the power play. Six different players netted goals for the Capitals in a well-rounded effort, boosted by Backstrom's three assists.

After their easiest win of the series, the Caps were riding high up 3-1 heading back to Las Vegas.

Game 5
Time:
7 p.m.
Location: Las Vegas
Original Game: June 7, 2018

The one that needs no introduction, right? After a scoreless first period, the teams exploded for five combined goals in the second period, including a power play goal from Ovi.

Trailing 3-2 entering the third period, the Caps needed someone else to step up, and they got it. Devante Smith-Pelly tied the game midway through the frame, and Lars Eller gave them the Cup-clinching goal a few minutes later.

Holtby held on the rest of the way, and the Capitals became your 2018 Stanley Cup Champions.

Championship Parade

Time: 9:30 p.m.
Original Date: June 12, 2018

What more needs to be said? The Capitals kicked off the great summer of celebration in style, parading through Washington, D.C. and sharing the glory of their title runs during an unforgettable afternoon with thousands of fans.

If you somehow missed this live, you don't want to miss re-living it now.

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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Lars Eller may be the Tiger, but Caps coach Todd Reirden is not about to lump him in with the people from 'Tiger King'

Lars Eller may be the Tiger, but Caps coach Todd Reirden is not about to lump him in with the people from 'Tiger King'

Like everyone during this time of social distancing because of the coronavirus, Todd Reirden is getting some extra time to catch up on some TV. Also like everyone, one of the shows he has watched during the NHL's pause in the season is the Netflix docuseries "Tiger King."

"I did take myself through the 'Tiger King,'" Reirden said on a conference call Monday. "That I did watch. I watched that one on my own. I did not have my wife and son in on that one. I wanted to be prepared for discussion points with the players if they had seen it. So I did watch that. I'll just leave it at that, but I did watch it."

So Reirden has watched it, but just for reference. Right.

"It's just one of those things that you want to be prepared for as a coach because you know they all have watched it and I saw the amount of people that have watched it," Reirden said. "I have not gotten into in-depth discussions but when I do get together with the players one day when things become normal again for us."

While Reirden was diplomatic about what he thought about the people featured in the series, he also made it clear he was not about to compare any of the Capitals players to Joe Exotic or any of the other...colorful characters. That includes Lars Eller.

Eller's nickname, of course, is 'Tiger' after he chose the tiger for his spirit animal in a talk with Tony Robbins. When Reirden was asked Monday if Eller was the team's "Tiger King," Reirden was pretty quick to shut that down.

"Lars Eller, I mean he is our Tiger for sure on our team," Reirden said. "I hate to couple him into the same kind of personality that's going on with the 'Tiger King, 'but certainly he has the name for it. So that's an interesting thought that I need to spend some more time on before I commit to it."

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