Braden Holtby #70 of the Washington Capitals defends his goal as the puck goes wide on a shot by Chris Kreider #24 of the New York Rangers during the shootout in an NHL hockey game at Madison Square Garden on March 24, 2013 in New York City. Capitals won 3-2 in a shootout.
(March 23, 2013 - Source: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images North America)

Holtby’s been key in Capitals’ surge


The Washington Capitals have gone from 30th in the NHL to tying the Winnipeg Jets for first place in the Southeast Division despite having played in two fewer games than the Jets.

There have been a lot of players that have stepped up for the Capitals, but perhaps the most critical has been goaltender Braden Holtby.

After his stunning performance in the 2012 playoffs, the 23-year-old netminder struggled initially this season, but has bounced back with a 2.19 GAA and .929 save percentage in his last 18 starts.

At the same time, he’s proven himself as a workhorse.

“He always want the ball,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said of Holtby, according to CSN Washington. “I haven’t seen him not want the ball yet. That’s a great character in a player.”

Holtby has started in 24 of Washington’s last 27 games, although Michal Neuvirth might get a start on Sunday for the first time since March 16.

For his part, Holtby downplayed his importance.

“We go as a unit,” Holtby said. “Your goaltender is only as good as your team, and your team is only as good as your goaltender. It’s never a case of one guy is the show. We go as a group and that’s why we win games.”

If they keep winning games like this, they will be in a great position to complete their comeback and secure the third seed.

There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

Connor McDavid
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Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.

Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”

The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.

Eichel front page

Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.

But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.

“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.

“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”

Sutter: Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks

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Lost in the various controversies (see here and here) of last night’s game in Los Angeles was a pretty dismal performance by the Kings, a team that should’ve been especially motivated to start the season after missing the playoffs last year.

The Kings were hammered, 5-1, by the visiting Sharks. They were outshot, 32-20.

“If you don’t check, you don’t have the puck enough,” said Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. “If you don’t have the puck enough, you can’t score.”

“We were pretty sloppy. Sloppy on our rushes, sloppy in our D-zone,” said forward Dustin Brown. “That’s probably most of it, but the other part is compete – in the corners and making hard plays coming out of our zone, going in. We didn’t play very well.”

Obviously, much credit has to go to the Sharks. Like the Kings, they missed the playoffs last year and came into 2015-16 looking for redemption. But the Sharks haven’t won two Stanley Cups in the last four years, and they weren’t the home team.

“Gotta check,” said Sutter. “You don’t check, you can’t score. We had a lot of guys, especially top guys that weren’t interested in that part of the game.”

The Kings get a visit from the Arizona Coyotes on Friday. If they don’t dominate that team…