On Wednesday, Caps Coach Barry Trotz joked that Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist “conveniently will fall on your goalie many times.”
On Thursday, Caps goalie Braden Holtby said he’d played that way, too, if he skated out.
“He plays hard,” Holtby said of Hornqvist after the morning skate. “I respect that.”
Holtby added: “He doesn’t really cheap shot you or anything like that. He doesn’t try to slew foot you all the time. He goes to the net, the hard areas and you just battle through it—and leave it up to the refs if they think it’s fair or not and you just focus on stopping the puck.”
Hornqvist is expected to play on the Penguins’ top line alongside Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel as the teams’ second round series begins at Verizon Center on Thursday night.
Hornqvist’s role on that line is easily defined: go to the net hard and make Holtby’s life a little less enjoyable in the crease.
Hornqvist had two goals and an assist in the Pens’ five-game victory over Columbus in the first round. One of the goals came on the power play from just inches outside of Sergei Bobrovsky’s goal crease. The play ended with Hornqvist getting shoved into Bobrovsky, who got flattened by the contact.
“Most teams have a guy that’s in front of the net, bumping you or screening or whatever so it’s not anything new, it’s not anything different,” Holtby said. “You just fight around it, you try to box him out as much as you can, tie up his stick and I fight for a sightline on the initial shot and make sure that the rebounds are sticking to me.”
Asked if he thinks Hornqvist is more annoying than other net front guys, Holtby joked that he’d play the same way as a forward.
“I respect the fact that he plays hard,” Holtby said. “I don’t get annoyed by that. Maybe some guys do. If I were a forward, I’d probably be that guy, too.”
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