Braden Holtby’s puck-handling skills are an advantage for the Washington Capitals, especially against the New York Rangers, who like to forecheck aggressively. That’s even after his giveaway in Game 4 that led to a goal.
“He got a tough break,” coach Adam Oates said Thursday. “I already talked to him about it. I ask the guy to handle the puck a lot and accidents happen. We have to score more than one goal. Holts is a very good goalie and we believe in him.”
Believing in Holtby includes believing he’ll bounce back from allowing eight goals in two games at Madison Square Garden.
“He’s our go-to guy all year and we’re excited to have him as our goalie,” right wing Joel Ward said. “We know he’s going to bounce back and have a heck of a game.”
Neither Oates nor a single one of Holtby’s teammates lamented his play in Game 4 Wednesday night, when he tried to send the puck flying down the ice to a wide-open Eric Fehr. Taylor Pyatt batted it down with what Oates called a “borderline” high stick – and it was close – and Brad Richards scored soon after.
Seeing Fehr primed for a breakaway, the 23-year-old netminder thought he made the right play.
“I just need to get that a foot higher in the air, make him take a high stick,” Holtby said. “He made a great play knocking that down. He doesn’t make that, that’s a breakaway the other way. That happens.”
That was the reaction in the Caps’ room since losing Game 5: One of those plays happening every dozen games shouldn’t de-value what Holtby brings in aiding breakouts.
“We still have lots of game and everybody make mistakes. He makes mistake, but how many time he save us? No pressure for him. He’s all right.”
Even in saying, “in hindsight he could’ve made a better decision, gone up the way,” Oates praised Holtby for showing poise.
The Caps certainly won’t ask Holtby to do anything differently when handling the puck out of his net.
“As long as it doesn’t affect him – and I haven’t seen, since I’ve known Braden, that any game has affected him,” Oates said.