Throughout the coming weeks, CSNWashington.com Capitals Insider Chuck Gormley will evaluate the 2014-15 performance of each player on the Caps roster. One breakdown will occur every day in alphabetical order. Today: Braden Holtby
Age: 25 [turns 26 Sept. 16]
Ht/Wt: 6-2, 208
Goals-against Average: 2.22
Save Percentage: .923
Playoff games: 13
Goals-against Average: 1.71
Save Percentage: .944
Contract Status: RFA [2014-15 salary: $2 million; cap hit: $1.85 million]
Strengths: Say what you want about Alex Ovechkin and his Hart-worthy season. Holtby was the biggest reason fans in Washington believed in the Capitals’ chances to win a Stanley Cup this season. Described by head coach Barry Trotz as being the team’s DNA, Holtby answered all of his doubters by having the strongest season of his four-year NHL career. He led all NHL goalie s in games  and minutes [4,247], was tied for second in wins  and shutouts , fourth among starters with 50 or more games in goals-against average [2.22] and tied for sixth in save percentage [.923, 50 or more games]. In the playoffs he was even better, leading all starting goalies with a 1.71 GAA and .944 save percentage. Holtby relies on his anticipation and cat-like reflexes to make the first save, but worked hard with goalie coach Mitch Korn on controlling his rebounds and playing tighter than he had in the past. He also became more judicious and less risky with his puck handling, gaining an unfailing trust from Trotz and his teammates.
Room for improvement: There are times Holtby overplays the puck and tries to make risky stretch passes, but those are few and far between. He also has a tendency to move pucks to his defensemen instead of covering them to take a faceoff, but he improved in that aspect as well.
Memorable Moment: In Game 3 against the Rangers on May 4, with the series knotted at one win apiece, Holtby made Jay Beagle’s second-period goal stand up as the game-winner by making 30 saves in a 1-0 victory. But his most memorable save of the playoffs came two nights later when, with the Capitals holding a 2-1 lead on the Rangers on the strength of Andre Burakovsky’s two goals, he faced Carl Hagelin on a penalty shot with 8:01 gone in the third period. Hagelin, who earned the penalty shot by getting hauled down by Mike Green, faked a forehand and went to his backhand. Holtby read it the whole way, snatching the puck in his glove.
Quotable: “Job security is something that doesn’t come around very often in this profession, so if you can find some it’s great. If you don’t have any ties it’s a lot different. But with family you’d like to stay and get to know the community and get involved. So the longer term the better.” – Holtby on pending contract negotiations
2015-16 Expectations: The biggest question facing the Capitals in the offseason is how long – and for how much – they should sign Holtby. At 25, he has two more seasons before he can become unrestricted and name his own price on the free agent market. So it stands to reason the Caps would want to sign Holtby to a bridge contract of at least four years, with a cap hit in the $5 million range. The dollar value of Holtby’s contract will determine what’s left for fellow restricted free agents Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson, Nate Schmidt and Philipp Grubauer, along with UFAs Mike Green, Joel Ward, Eric Fehr and Jay Beagle. That’s why Holtby might be the first big domino to fall this summer.