Capitals

Capitals

Coming off a Vezina Trophy-winning year in which he tied the NHL single-season record for wins, it would be hard for Braden Holtby to improve upon his 2015-16 season. If there is a way, however, he has the right goalie coach to find it.

Mitch Korn came to the Capitals with Barry Trotz in 2014. Korn worked as the goalie coach in Nashville with Trotz for 16 years. Prior to that, Korn was in Buffalo coaching one of the best goalies of all time in Dominik Hasek.

Under Korn’s tutelage, Hasek won the Vezina four times and the Hart Memorial Trophy twice as the NHL’s MVP. Most importantly, Korn helped Hasek win the Vezina in consecutive seasons in 1993-94 and 1994-95 and again in 1996-97 and 1997-98.

Korn is hoping to find similar success with Holtby this season, but that is easier said than done.

“Dominik Hasek's an anomaly,” Korn said, “... It is so hard for Vezina winners or Vezina nominees to appear the very next year as a nominee. It gets that much harder in the league because there's so many good goalies, there's so many things out of your control.”

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What’s not out of his control is the preparation and that's one thing Korn intends to keep as intense as ever to prevent complacency.

 

“The one thing that you don't want to do is you don’t want to rest on your laurels,” Korn said. “You don't want last year to do the talking for you. You want this year to do the talking for you and so I'm trying not to let the foot off the gas.”

That won’t be a problem for Holtby who enters the season with more to prove than most Vezina winners.

Despite winning the award in June, Holtby was relegated to the press box in the World Cup of Hockey just two months later as Canada head coach Mike Babcock elected to dress Carey Price and Corey Crawford instead.

The World Cup delayed Holtby’s arrival at Capitals training camp and, though he has said he feels ready for the regular season, that time away from the team is a concern for Korn.

When asked if he thought Holtby was ready for the start of the season, Korn paused then said “My delay in the answer probably gives you the answer, but it's hard to tell because as hard as you try and practice, practice just doesn't seem to replicate what happens in a hockey game.”

The Caps will find out just how ready Holtby is very soon as every indication from the team is that he will be given the same heavy workload fans have come to expect from the Capitals’ netminder in recent years.

Holtby has started in 138 games over the past two seasons not including the playoffs. Given the Caps’ playoff struggles, some have wondered if perhaps Holtby should play fewer games in order to keep him fresh for the playoffs.

Holtby, however, insists fatigue has not been a factor and still hopes to play as often as possible.

“I don't think there is such thing as saving for playoffs,” he said. “There's no bank that you can put it in. The more experience you can get in a year, the more reps you can get, makes the reps easier when they come in the future. I believe playing more, getting on the ice every day helps my game.”

Korn also said he was not concerned with Holtby’s workload...for now. At only 27 years old, the goalie coach still believes Holtby capabale of being a workhorse in net. It's a luxury the Caps should take advantage of because it won't last forever.

“I think a goalie life is like tires,” Korn said. “There's just so much tread and so you have to kind of manage it, especially as the car starts to age.”

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