Visualization helps Braden Holtby in net, on golf course

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BOSTON | That Braden Holtby is a cerebral goaltender should come as no surprise. Learning from Alberta-based sports psychologist and goaltending coach John Stevenson, Holtby picked up self-talk exercises and learned about Kaizen, the Japanese principle of continued improvement.

Some of what makes him a great goaltender is intrinsic, though. Stevenson recalled a day on the links when Holtby looked like a much-improved golfer.

I said to Braden: ‘Who did you see? What pro did you go see?’ He went, ‘I didn’t see any pro.’ I said, ‘How come your swing is so good?’ And he goes, ‘I just watch golf and I watch guys’ swings and then I just copy them,’ ” Stevenson recalled in a phone interview Wednesday. “That’s what he’s really good at. He’s amazing in terms of his visualization skills. He can watch other guys, other students in the NHL, and he can take parts of their game and incorporate it into his game and make it his own.”

Holtby grew up watching and trying to mimic Patrick Roy, the legendary Montreal Canadiens goaltender. The 22-year-old Washington Capitals rookie revered Roy for his intensity.

haven’t seen that in any other goaltender ever. The way he competed and not only competed but was able to raise his level once things got hard and once his back was against the wall in order to do something, he needed to step up and be a leader on his team,” Holtby said. “As a goalie it’s not always the easiest thing to be a leader on a team. … Whenever you see a guy like that that his teammates look up to, you know his qualities are outstanding, and that’s just what I try and model myself after.”

Stevenson compared Holtby to other athletic goalies like Tim Thomas, Jonathan Quick and Pekka Rinne, guys who aren’t robotic in their technique but can react and adjust.

They can block when they need to, but when they need to make a save, they can also go into what I call reactive mode,” Stevenson said.

That’s on the ice and the golf course, where Stevenson said Holtby routinely shoots in the high 70s and low 80s.

For not having a lesson that’s pretty darn good,” Stevenson said. “He’s just that kind of kid.”

For the next few weeks, the Caps are relying on Holtby to keep them away from golf and a long summer ahead.

No matter what happens these playoffs, there’s not a doubt in my mind that he’s going to be a successful goalie in the NHL,” Stevenson said. “I think it’s just experience right now for Braden.”

Read more about Braden Holtby, man behind the mask here.

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