By Chris Gordon
Photo: Patrick Smith
The Capitals were dramatically outplayed Monday night against the Edmonton Oilers. Nevertheless, they won, thanks almost entirely to Braden Holtby‘s 33 save shutout.
“I think the guys had a lot more to do with this one than it looked,” Holtby told reporters after the game. He was, it seems, the only member of the Capitals who thought that. In scrum after scrum, Holtby’s teammates lauded his performance, which was highlighted by a stunning save on Eric Gryba to keep the game scoreless in the third period.
“You’ll be seeing the replays of the save probably the rest of the year if you missed it,” said Tom Wilson, who assisted on the game’s only goal, a late third period strike from Dmitry Orlov. “He’s unbelievable. Honestly, we lose that game if he’s not in the net. If we have any other goalie in the league playing that game, we don’t win this hockey game.”
It’s hard to find a netminder better than Holtby in the NHL right now. The 26-year-old bearded Canadian farm boy is tied for the NHL lead in wins with Henrik Lundqvist. Among goaltenders with at least 10 appearances this season, Holtby’s 1.88 goals against average ranks second.
“Tonight he was by far our best player,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “There wasn’t even anybody in the same universe as him.”
Holtby fine season this year comes on the heels of a marvelous 2014-2015 campaign. He finished second in the league in wins last year while delivering one of the most remarkable postseason performances by a goaltender in the history of the NHL.
“He’s way ahead of where he was last year,” Trotz said, insisting the Capitals played better defense in front of Holtby last season. “He was the guy that won the game.”
Brooks Laich was perhaps the most worshipful of all the Caps.
“I just shook his hand there and said ‘that was pretty studly,'” Laich said. “I’ve been here a decade and that’s one of the best goaltending performances I’ve seen on a single night and that’s saying a lot. I’ve played with some tremendous players and he’s the only reason we were in that game. He made a dozen, probably, grade-A, glorious saves. He was really, honestly a stud for us tonight.”
Holtby’s shutout was his first of the season and the 21st of his career. His first career shutout came against Edmonton back in 2011. The win helped the Capitals maintain the fifth best record in the league.
“Shutouts only matter if it’s 1-0,” Holtby said. “So it’s a good night to have one.”
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