Holtby’s been key in Capitals’ surge

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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.