- Last night’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes felt like another one of “those nights” for Washington, where the team doesn’t look interested against a team who is towards the bottom of the league. Several guys had some pretty poor games — I am looking at you, Alexander Semin and Jeff Schultz — so it’s a good thing Braden Holtby showed up. In a night that saw three goals total between the two teams, it was Holtby who made the biggest difference.
- Coming off of a big shutout win over Edmonton just a few days prior, Holtby stoned Carolina through almost two periods before his defense left him out to dry with time winding down in the second. Despite giving up the goal, he was still the second star of the game and truly won the game for the Caps. When asked if his high level of play has been the best of his career, Holtby said, “I think this whole year has been better than I’ve played but I hope that happens for the rest of my career. You want to feed off every season coming into the next because you want to learn. I’m feeling better, and obviously there are still a lot of things that need to get better, especially my puck handling.”
- It is interesting that Holtby focused on his puck handling as one of the things he wants to improve on because that was also something his coach focused on after the game. Bruce Boudreau thought his puck handling was an asset to his game, within reason, that is. “I thought he was getting a little too brave sometimes tonight … [Rather] I don’t think he gets a little too brave, a little too cocky thinking he can deke guys.”
- On a side note, although you may think you are helping pump up Holtby when you chant his name, he told me after the game he actually tries to block that noise out. He said he doesn’t try to get wrapped up in it because it can throw him off. It is really no surprise if you have seen Holtby visualize before and during a game. His mental game is one of his strengths, and he clearly tries to stay focused throughout the game.
- Aside from Holtby stealing the game for the Caps, the referees got a critical call wrong that actually helped the Caps for once. It shocked many of us in the press box. Late in the third period, the Capitals were stuck in their own end and clinging to a one goal lead when it looked as if the Hurricanes had knotted it up at two, except, the ref had blown the whistle before Holtby had control of the puck. As a result, the Caps dodged a bullet, kept their lead and won the game.
- Finally, if anyone ever questioned the new contract Matt Hendricks signed, he probably proved his worth to them last night. In the third period Jason Arnott grabbed the puck on a break out of the penalty box for a chance on goalie Cam Ward. While Ward made the initial save, Hendericks took the puck from him and flipped it into the net for the eventual game winning goal. When talking about the goal he said, “I’ve got all of the confidence in the world in Arnott, but if there was going to be a rebound I wanted to get it.” Now that sounds like the kind of guy a championship caliber team has.