The Hershey Bears’ Braden Holtby said what happened this summer with the Capitals’ goaltending situation—when the Capitals traded a goalie above him in the depth chart only to sign another— is almost out of his mind.
There’s been a lot to focus on in Hershey.
While their NHL affiliate has gone through a systems makeover this season, there’s been a slight shift in strength of game down at Hershey as well. Holtby described the team to OFB via a phone interview in December as more offensive-based than before, with the skill being up front. It was also a much slower start to the season than the goaltender expected for himself (his current SAV% is 9.03, whereas last year he finished with a .920).
In fact, Holtby’s admitted bumpy start reveals a very different side to one of the stories that made a brief appearance on the national media scene last November; it also gives a glimpse into the kind of mentoring that coaches like Olie Kolzig (associate goaltending coach with the Capitals) are giving Holtby.
After a 3-2 shootout win against (who else?) the Baby Pens in late November, Holtby –who stopped 4 of 5 pucks in the shootout for the win—gave a series of fist pumps that took him to center ice. He wound up with a game misconduct, a brawl almost ensued, and Puck Daddy picked up the video (via Sweetest Hockey on Earth) with its usual doset of good-humored commentary.
Tim Leone for The Patriot News reported this quote from the Baby Pens on the incident:
“We were just upset, just the showboating,” WBS forward Zach Sill said. “We showed we weren’t happy with it. In our own barn, you don’t want that happening.”
Completely understandable. But after hearing Holtby reflect on the incident to OFB, the celebration, it turns out, seemed to come more from a place of relief–—a sort of personal catharsis. After the rougher-than-anticipated start to the season, Holtby finally felt in that game he played better.
But, even when going through personal struggles, you’re still part of a team, and that was the heart of what Kolzig stressed to the young goaltender afterwards. Holtby said Kolzig didn’t want to take away that it had been a rough road for the goaltender up until that point. But he reminded Holtby not to let individual celebrations get in the way of the team.
Coming from one player known for wearing his emotions on his sleeve to another, it sounds like good advice. And it’s one more learning curve Holtby’s navigated this year.