With a win on Monday night (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, live stream) the Washington Capitals will advance to Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fifth year in a row.
It is a pretty impressive streak when you remember just how often they were a postseason punchline before finally winning the Stanley Cup last season. Especially since no other team in the league has an active streak of more than three years (if the Nashville Predators come back to beat the Dallas Stars, it will be their fourth consecutive year advancing to Round 2, but they still need to win two games in a row to make that happen).
It is not easy to get out of Round 1 that regularly.
One of the biggest reasons they have been able to do so pretty much every year has been the consistently great postseason play of starting goalie Braden Holtby.
He is also a big reason why you have to like their chances of winning just one more game against the Carolina Hurricanes in this series.
Especially since these are the games he tends to really excel in.
Monday’s Game 6 against the Hurricanes will be the 19th time in Holtby’s career he will play a game where the Capitals have a chance to eliminate an opponent.
In the previous 18 games, he has a .932 save percentage in potential knockout games (slightly higher than his career postseason mark of .929 — which is significantly higher than his career regular season mark of .918), and has won seven of hits past 10 including each of his past five.
That includes a perfect 4-for-4 mark in the playoffs a year ago on the Capitals’ run to the Cup when he only allowed one goal in a Game 6 series-clinching win on the road in Pittsburgh in Round 2, and then shut out the Tampa Bay Lightning in a decisive Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final (after also shutting them out in Game 6).
Of the three games he lost during that stretch, he didn’t allow more than two goals in any of them, and has allowed more than two goals in just five of the 18 games where he has had a chance to knock out an opponent out of the playoffs.
In other words: Even when the Capitals lose and fail to move on in the playoffs, it has rarely — if ever — been due to the play of their goalie.
For his career he has been one of the best postseason goalies in NHL history, and when he has a chance to finish the job in a series, he almost always plays well enough to do it.