When you finish the regular season with a 56-18-8 record, it’s because a lot of your players had great years.
The Washington Capitals got a 77-point season from Evgeny Kuznetsov, a 50-goal season from Alex Ovechkin, a 50-assist season from Nicklas Backstrom and they got 20 goals from six different players. The Caps also got some excellent performances from Braden Holtby.
How good was Holtby? Well, not only did he tie Martin Brodeur’s record for most wins in a season (48), but he’s in the top 10 in save percentage (minimum 40 games) and top five in goals-against-average (minimum 40 games). Will that be enough to get him his first Vezina Trophy? Capitals GM Brian MacLellan thinks so.
“I was planning on voting for him, yeah,” MacLellan said with a laugh, per the Washington Post. “It’s a remarkable accomplishment to get 48 wins. He’s played well. I think he’s earned it. He’s had a good workload. Numbers are all good. Five-on-five save percentage is good. I think he deserves it. I think he’ll get it.”
Goaltenders like Ben Bishop, Corey Crawford, Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider all had fantastic seasons and they’ll all be in contention for the award.
“I think he’s been great,” MacLellan said of Holtby. “I think it’s a function of the team playing well also, in front of him. He’s got the support defensively and offensively. I think his game got taken to a different level too. He’s learning things about his style and when he gets off, how to re-calibrate.”
A Vezina Trophy would be a nice accomplishment for Holtby, but like the Capitals showed in the final game of the season, individual records and awards aren’t what they’re about. After Holtby tied Brodeur’s record on Saturday, the Capitals opted to rest their starter in Sunday’s regular season finale against the Ducks.
Washington’s had plenty of regular season success over the years, but now they want to take the next step in the spring. Their postseason run will start with a tough series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Don’t expect goaltending to be a problem for the Capitals in the playoffs. Holtby is far from an unproven commodity. In 34 postseason starts, he has a 16-18 record with a 1.92 goals-against-average, a .936 save percentage and two shutouts.