Two years ago, the Washington Capitals massively out-shot the Montreal Canadiens but ultimately lost a close series in seven games. By the end, Caps fans must have been cursing the name “Jaroslav Halak,” but after Game 1 against the Boston Bruins, the team might have their closest answer to him in Braden Holtby.
Sure, it’s not a perfect analogy. Halak was fighting with Carey Price for 1a/1b status in Montreal while Holtby’s only played sparingly at the NHL level.
Still, there’s enough for it to make for an interesting potential narrative. Holtby stopped 29 out of 30 shots, which is impressive enough. But much like Halak, Holtby radiated an unmistakable swagger. Tim Thomas collected another shutout in Boston’s 1-0 OT win, but Holtby often stole the show.
Maybe he didn’t seem impenetrable, but there was an eerie, implacable confidence to the way the young netminder was operating. It wasn’t enough to win, obviously, but much like with Halak, the Capitals seemed content to “turtle” in their own zone and hope for the occasional counter-punching opportunity because the Bruins couldn’t solve Holtby.
Honestly, I’m not convinced that is the right strategy for the Capitals to go with, even if they’re playing the role of underdogs. (If you ask me, nine out of 10 hockey underdogs score upset based on less-than-thrilling methods.)
That being said, if Holtby’s Game 1 is a sign of things to come rather than just an intriguing mirage of goaltending, the Bruins might be in for a frustrating series and Washington could have some sincere upset potential.
Here’s a look at what Holtby and Thomas did in Game 1: