Part of maturing as a professional athlete is figuring out what routine and mindset make you play consistently at the top of your game. For being only 22, the Caps’ Braden Holtby sounds like he has a lot figured out already.
This summer, the major change to his offseason routine was actually allowing himself to rest more—counter-intuitive for someone who’d usually start working out as soon as he got home in the offseason. Holtby felt, however, that pushing himself too far in the summer affected his play in the second part of the season.
“I still worked hard, but it was being more responsible with my body – making sure that I didn’t peak at the start of the season like I felt like I did in the last couple seasons,” Holtby told OFB Saturday.
He said when he was younger, he’d set numbers he wanted to achieve going into a new hockey season. But that mindset isn’t how he’s choosing to focus this year.
“My biggest goals coming in is that I really want to work on consistency in the latter part of the season, and I really want to prove that my time up here wasn’t a fluke if I get called up again, and that I can do a better job when I get sent back down to Hershey,” said Holtby, who was 10-2-2 for the Capitals last year and finished last year’s NHL stint with a 1.79 goals against average. His numbers in Hershey ended up 17-10-2 with a 2.29 goals against average and a .920 save percentage.
Summer brought an interesting twist in the Capitals’ goalie chronicles – the team traded one of their two starting goalies, which initially looked like a promotion for Holtby, but the eventual signing of veteran Tomas Vokoun means Holtby will likely start the 2012 season where he finished playing the last – in Hershey.
It poses an interesting dilemma for a young player: is it better to sit on a bench at a higher-level club, or get the reps and the mental comfort of being out on the ice every game at a slightly lower level?
“If you would have asked me that last year, I would have said I wanted to be playing,” Holtby said. “But this year, I’ve kind of realized the NHL is my goal … – with the practices and every experience you get up here, it’s valuable – that’s what you can’t learn in the AHL. But at the same time, there’s positives both ways. I do want to play a lot — I’m the guy that kind of goes crazy when he’s not playing.”
Holtby finished the 2011 season like the rest of us: watching Tim Thomas play himself into a killer beard, a championship-game MVP and a Stanley Cup.
But for those Caps fans who liked Thomas’ style of play, Holtby (when asked), grants he and Thomas probably bring a similar personality to the crease.
“I think his personality’s a lot like mine on the ice,” Holtby said. “He’s very competitive, and he kind of does whatever to stop the puck. I think with me, I’d like to work on a few more technical things than he has, I guess. But it works for him—he’s obviously the best goalie in the NHL last year.”
Part of the reason for emphasizing the technical in Washington, Holtby said, is because of how the goalie compliments the forwards here.
“You want to be looked at as kind of the steady guy back there instead of the excitement most of the time, ‘cause the excitement comes from the forwards in this group,” Holtby said.
Braden was Washington’s most effective goalie last year–PERIOD. The 10-2-2 stretch he had during his brief call up also included a pair of shutouts and earned him a Player-of-the-Week award as well in a seven day stretch, as I recall.
To all of that I would add that Washington’s forwards and defensemen seemed to play more responsibly when he was between the pipes than they did when either Neuvirth or Varlamov were in the crease.
So imagine my surprise when Bruce Boudreau sent Braden packing back down to Hershey after the Caps did so well with Holtby tending goal. Talk about counterintuitive. And, not surprisingly, the Caps’ supposedly improved defenders reverted to form once the post season started and began playing Every-Man-for-Himself hockey again and they got bounced in the second round…
Boudreau is an idiot–and a complacent one at that. To me, if you don’t coach defense that well then you’d better have a Glenn Hall or a Tony Esposito between the pipes just to ensure that the screwups the team’s forwards and defense men always seem to make don’t result in cheap goals…
Let’s see if BB can get it right this time…
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