PITTSBURGH, Pa.—When you’re standing between the pipes during a Team Canada practice, there’s hardly a chance to catch your breath.
One after another, the best players in the world take turns winding up and unloading their best shot. Crosby, Tavares, Stamkos, Bergeron, Toews, Doughty and the list goes on and on.
Just ask Capitals goalie Braden Holtby.
“There’s not many breaks,” Holtby said to CSN after Canada's practice at CONSOL Energy Center on Tuesday. “There’s no third or fourth liners, or fifth or six D-men that are giving you some ‘feel good shots.’ But it’s good. I’ve always found it kind of easier to play against goal scorers and skilled players because you think along the same lines as them. So it’s been good that way.”
Holtby won’t play Wednesday when Canada faces Russia in the teams’ final tune up for the World Cup of Hockey. In fact, he’ll be the odd man out as Montreal’s Carey Price starts and Chicago’s Corey Crawford backs up.
So far, Holtby has played half of one game—a 5-2 win for Canada over Team USA on Saturday night.
In that game, Holtby allowed two goals on 13 shots, including John Carlson's 5-on-3 tally. Needless to say, the American defenseman enjoyed beating Holtby, his Capitals’ teammate and the reigning Vezina Trophy winner.
“Yeah, I’ve heard that celebration in practice a time or two,” Holtby said. “I know he did it just for me, too, because he doesn’t usually do that. He’s pretty funny. He’d score that goal on any goalie. He has quite a shot, and through a screen like that, I’m glad we have him [in Washington].”
Holtby acknowledged feeling a little rusty in that game.
“It’s the same feeling as your first preseason game; you don’t feel very sharp,” he said. “You don’t feel like yourself. That's pretty much how it always is. We’ve been doing a lot of systems work and stuff for the last week so we haven’t been getting in much work as goalies. So it was a little weird. But now hopefully, we’ll get into a bit of a rhythm where we can get our game back.”
“The only butterflies was that I felt like I wasn’t quite prepared,” Holtby of starting for his country's national team.
Holby also acknowledged that the light workload hasn’t been ideal. That said, he also knows what he signed up for and that it’s up to him to maximize his practice time.
“It’s a challenge to get ready for the [NHL] season like this,” Holtby said. “But we’re battling though it, trying to find a way to push forward. It’s been tough but we’ll get there.”
“You try to use [each opportunity on the ice], especially here in practice, playing against the best players in the world [and] hopefully it will be a little easier going back,” he added. “But that’s only if you use it correctly.”
There are, however, some benefits to being one-third of a ridiculously talented three-goalie setup.
“Obviously, just watching those two, you can learn a lot of things,” Holtby said of Price, a Vezina and Hart Trophy winner, and Crawford, who has a pair of Stanley Cup championships.
“Each do different things very well, better than anyone else,” Holtby continued. “You pick up on those things. They’re both very down to earth guys. Very easy to talk to you, easy to get along with.”