By Chris Gordon
Photo credit: @davidb22307
It’s playoff time, which means we’re in for an inordinate amount of NBC coverage showing Braden Holtby getting all zen-like on the Capitals’ bench. But what, exactly, is going through the young goaltender’s mind in those moments?
“It’s just visualization techniques, breathing techniques,” Holtby, in a crisp suit with a purple pocket square, told me Sunday morning at Kettler Capitals Iceplex before the team’s flight to New York. “It’s just one of the things I do I try to do to get my mind in the same frame every night. It gets a lot of attention but a lot of guys do it, you just don’t see it.”
Holtby’s right about it being more widespread than some think.
“I came to the rink three hours early, I had a coffee, a stretch, and I did about 30 minutes of visualization,” Olie Kolzig told CSN Washington a few days ago. “That was the extent of my preparation.”
So we know Holtby’s visualizing; we’ve heard that a thousand times. But what does that actually mean? Well, Holtby says he almost playing a game in his head, imagining what the other team is doing and how he wants to react.
“You go over everything: certain plays, certain things you’ve been working on that you want to see yourself do correctly,” he said. “It’s just visualizing what you want to do. … Try to view yourself the way you want to be viewed.”
So there you have it: Braden Holtby spends his time before big games daydreaming.
Of course, Holtby’s pre-game contemplation isn’t his only idiosyncrasy. Braden’s Holtbyisms are well documented, but the goalie is rather terse when pressed on why, exactly, he does them. What he will concede, though, is that all his little moves (whether it’s spitting water through his teeth, tapping the posts, or flipping his water bottle into the air) help him stay focused on what’s happening on the ice in front of him and nothing more — especially during tight, stressful playoff games.
“It’s routines — everyone has them,” he said. “Everyone has their little things that they do in order to refocus and whatnot.”
“I try to approach every game the same no matter what the circumstances are,” Holtby added. “The biggest way to do that is just to focus on the task at hand and do my best to block everything out.”
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