From Labor Day through New Year’s, Braden Holtby has been the Capitals’ most reliable and consistent player. It was with that in mind that Barry Trotz was careful with his critique of his goaltender following the Caps’ 5-4 shootout loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night at Nationwide Arena.
“Holts wasn’t absolutely fantastic,” Trotz told reporters after watching Holtby allow four goals on 29 shots through 65 minutes, then two more on three shots in the shootout.
“If you measure his game to what it was all year, he’d probably put this as one of the lower points for the year. “But he’s been outstanding for us all year.
“I’m never going to blame the game on Holts because he’s won us so many, but he’ll probably say it wasn’t one of his better ones. He’s been incredible this year. He’s bounced back every opportunity we’ve let him.”
Holtby, whose loss was his first since Dec. 5, was equally disappointed in his effort against the Blue Jackets, which left his NHL-best record at 24-4-2.
“If I make a couple saves I know I can make, you’re not asking those questions and it doesn’t change the way we played at all,” Holtby said. “This one, I have to be better. It’s simple.”
Holtby and the Caps were 68 seconds away from a 4-3 win when Brandon Saad used a burst of speed to get behind Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen and flipped a shortside backhander over Holtby to tie the score.
“That’s a hard play, when they cut in front,” Holtby said, “and I think I cheated a bit too much (to the far post) to try to stop him from going to the backside there and left a little bit of space open.”
Despite the shootout loss, Holtby still has not lost a game in regulation since Nov. 10, a 19-game stretch in which he has gone 16-0-3. During that time Holtby has faced an increased volume of traffic in his crease as opponents try to make it more and more difficult for him to see pucks.
That was certainly the case Saturday night but Holtby believes the Blue Jackets crossed the line when Nick Foligno skated by Holtby and clipped him under the chin with his stick blade, prying Holtby’s mask off in the process.
“They missed that one, I think,” Trotz said of the officials, who did not call a penalty on the play. “Those are dangerous plays. There’s no reason for it. (Foligno’s) just got to control his stick. Holts was in the crease. It is what it is.”
Holtby has had his mask knocked off in each of his last two starts and is getting frustrated by the liberties players are taking in his crease.
“Yeah, I was not expecting it,” Holtby said. “That’s a pretty standard play. A goalie is standing there all the time. It’s tough when you don’t get those (called). It’s pretty clear that’s a high stick on him.”
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