Braden Holtby stretched and skated around the ice like he was enjoying just being out there. While the other Washington Capitals goaltenders got extra work from the scratches, Holtby collected pucks and killed some time.
Soon after, he stepped off and confirmed the worst-kept secret around the Caps: That he would be starting Tuesday night against the Buffalo Sabres.
“I’m pretty excited for it. It’s a big game, but at the same time it’s just another one. It counts as two points, just the same as all the others do,” an even-keeled Holtby said. “I’m ready to go into it with that mindset, but there will be a little extra motivation to have the team going and get a win.”
This seemed like a no-brainer, given not only Holtby’s stellar numbers since being called up but his shutout Sunday against the Minnesota Wild. The 22-year-old is 2-0-1 with a 1.29 goals-against average and .955 save percentage in his past three starts and is feeling it right now.
“He’s come out here, he’s played well, and it’s a big game for him,” coach Dale Hunter said.
It’s another pressure situation for Holtby, who already won in Detroit and played well before losing in the shootout in Philadelphia.
“Going into Detroit, going into Philly, those are tough situations so he’s been good under pressure,” Hunter said. “He’s always been good under pressure, they tell me. And he’s a kid that wants to rise to the occasion.”
Holtby was asked about his confidence level to carry the Caps into the playoffs and didn’t want to look beyond Tuesday night.
“I’m confident in my abilities. As to carrying the team into the playoffs, I really don’t know how to answer that because I’m focusing on this game,” he said. “After this game I’m not sure what will be in store. I’d love to, that’s the goal, obviously, for anyone. As for confidence, I’ve always been confident in my ability to be an NHL goaltender.”
The Sabres bring a certain amount of the unknown.
“You can look at it both ways. I mean, [the Sabres] haven’t seen me either. I probably get to watch them on TV more than they’ve ever got to see me. It’s probably an advantage to me,” Holtby said. “When you’re on the ice, all that kind of goes away and you just battle for what you can take and try your best to get a win.”