As the Washington Capitals look to put an end to a recent skid in Dallas, they’ll come across a familiar foe that still holds a place in their heart: Stars netminder Braden Holtby.
Holtby will get the start in the net for the Stars, marking the first time Washington will see — and face — Holtby since he left D.C.
“It’s a little bit odd,” Lars Eller noted. “You’re used to having him behind you, backing you up. Probably even more weird for him since he’s facing a lot of familiar faces on the other side. So I’m sure he’s gonna be pumped up and very motivated.”
The 32-year-old netminder spent 10 years with the Capitals after going in the fourth round of the 2008 draft and developing with the AHL’s Hershey Bears. In 468 games with Washington, he went 282-122-46 with a .916 save percentage and 2.53 GAA. Holtby also won the Vezina in 2016 and was crucial in leading D.C. to its first Stanley Cup title.
After his tenure with the Capitals, Holtby signed in Vancouver and was bought out. He is now in Dallas on a one-year deal and has been solid through 21 games this season, going 9-8-1 with a .917 SV% and 2.60 GAA.
Despite Holtby being on the other side of the matchup, the Capitals had great things to say about their former netminder.
READ MORE ON WHN: Capitals Chip In To Help Oshie With Second-Grade Math Problem
“He was great player, great guy in our locker room and big part of this organization and especially when we won the Cup,” Dmitry Orlov explained. It’s gonna be huge. Gonna be a big game for him… Special moment for him. He’s great goalie and I’m proud he’s still playing at this level.”
“He was an anchor for us and the big reason why we did what we did. It’ll be fun to see him again,” Eller, who scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal in Game 5, added.
And of course, Washington still remembers “The Save.” The Capitals were up late in the third period of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, and as Alex Tuch fired a one-timer on a wide-open net, Holtby made a miraculous stick save that not only helped even up the series, but shifted the momentum in the District’s favor.
“He was the main reason why we’ve been successful for long time because he goalie. He was unbelievable for us, and we play unbelievable for him and he’s great person,” Evgeny Kuznetsov said. “When you say, ‘Braden Holtby,’ that save always like a picture in your eyes, right? It’ll be in my memory forever for sure. He’s good teammate and I’m happy for him that he’s still playing hockey and I hope he’s enjoy it every day.”
— NHL (@NHL) May 30, 2019
Orlov added that he was on the bench for the play and at first, thought the puck went in before seeing the replay. To this day, he still holds that memory close. The team also has a picture of it in the locker room.
“I think that’s probably the greatest save in most of the guys in the room, their careers,” Orlov said, adding, “You basically [say], ‘Oh, it’s probably goal. Nobody like see where the puck go. It was unreal… kind of crazy, you can see the stick. It’s crazy It’s good for us and sucks for other guy who shot that puck.”
Eller also added that “the Save” speaks to the kind of person that Holtby is on and off the ice.
“That save in Game 2 was crucial for the whole dynamic of that series, going home with 1-1 instead of, what happens after that, I don’t know,” Eller noted. “You need key saves at key times and he had of his best ones right there. And then I think also coming in in the first series, you need to be at your best and he was. He was able to find the best version of himself after not playing the first two games and not being the starter. that says a lot about his mental strength and able to perform under pressure. Yeah, I mean, love playing with him. He’s a great teammate and I hope he does well wherever he goes… except when he plays us.”