Braden Holtby has had a Vezina-caliber season thus far, but the first half of Friday's game against Tampa Bay was not among his best. The Caps netminder gave up three goals in just 12 shots to the Lightning, prompting Barry Trotz to pull Holtby in favor of Philipp Grubauer. In so doing, Trotz hoped to send a strong message, but not to Holtby.
"We've got so used to Braden being so strong for us we tend to be a little loose sometimes and he's been erasing our mistakes," Trotz said. "I was sort of making a statement, ok, enough's enough.
"He's been our MVP from game one on. Why are we doing this to him? So I pulled him out and put Grubi in."
Even with Friday's game, Holtby has registered a .931 save percentage and leads the NHL with a 1.92 GAA. There have been a number of games in which he has carried the Caps to a victory despite the team being outplayed by the opposition. Trotz wanted to make sure the team knew Friday that this time, they were on their own.
"I told them between periods. I said, let's get one thing straight, this is not a reflection on Braden's play. This was on everyone else's play."
"I think that that was just kind of a message to us that Trotzie's not going to let him bail us out tonight, we're going to have to do it ourselves," Taylor Chorney said.
It's a message the team heard loud and clear as they rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win 5-3. It was the first time the Caps had erased a three-goal deficit to win in regulation since Oct. 16, 2008.
For his part, Holtby understood that the 3-0 deficit was not all on his shoulders.
"It's a little easier to move forward when I can look at the film and know those goals, there's not much I can really do on them," Holtby said. "They happen. It's just that fact that you want to do more. You want to help the team a bit more."
Those games will happen. The important thing for the Caps, who have looked dependent on their netminder in recent weeks, is that they showed they can win even when Holtby's not at his best.
Notes from practice:
Knicked up? Alex Ovechkin left practice early after getting "knicked up" per the team, but it does not appear to be serious and every indication is that Ovechkin's status for Sunday's game is not in doubt.
Maintenance: Justin Williams had a maintenance day on Saturday and did not practice. Stanislav Galiev skated in his place on the second line.