Just one game after getting pulled in 20 minutes, Braden Holtby bounced back with a shutout performance on Thursday leading the Caps to the 5-0 blowout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Facing an opponent who had won 16 in a row, the Caps hoped everyone would be at their best heading into Thursday’s game. On Tuesday against Toronto, Holtby did not return to the net for the start of the second period after giving up three goals on just eight shots.
But Holtby was able to bounce back in a big way on Thursday as he turned aside all 29 shots he faced for his fourth shutout of the season.
“He said that he didn't feel quite right before [Tuesday’s] game and just not tracking the puck the way he does,” head coach Barry Trotz said following Thursday's win, “and so he just goes through his routine and gets back on track and I thought he responded really well tonight.”
Holtby didn’t just respond well Thursday, he always has responded well after poor performances.
Last season, Holtby’s save percentage in his first start after getting pulled was .932. For his career, it’s .935.
“That's the way he is and that's the way it's been his whole career,” Backstrom said. “He's so calm back there, even if he got pulled last game he's still so calm. He just regroups this way.”
Holtby has proven himself to be one of the most consistently dominant goalies in the NHL. Not only are bad games rare, but he always seems to follow up one bad game with a very strong effort. That’s an important quality to have considering how much mentality and confidence can affect play.
“Just like any goaltender, you're able to park it,” Trotz said of Holtby. “Forget about the last game.”
For his part, Holtby said he doesn’t try to do anything special to prepare after a poor start, he just tries to work hard in practice to improve.
“I wasn't happy with the way I played last game, not only the goals, just the way I felt and the way I was moving,” Holtby said. “Took the last couple days in practice, yesterday and the morning skate, to try and work on a couple things I felt and felt a lot better today. It's a good step.”
It’s a good thing Holtby returned to form against Columbus because the Caps would have been in trouble if he hadn’t.
Philipp Grubauer was technically the backup goalie for Thursday's game, but he was not on the bench because he was sick and was receiving fluids. Had Holtby not been able to put last game out of his head, the team would have been in trouble.
But Holtby was able to rebound, just as his teammates knew he would.
“You just shrug your shoulders and you just expect him to do it every game,” Justin William said. “He does and that’s why he’s our rock back there. You never, ever, ever have to worry about him. That’s a good thing in this league.”
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