Photo: Jared Silber
On Friday night, after allowing goals on back-to-back shots, Braden Holtby was pulled in favor of backup netminder Philipp Grubauer with the Capitals down 3-0. Those goals, however, were not the result of Holtby’s poor play. Instead, the Capitals’ defense was at fault, which head coach Barry Trotz acknowledged after the game.
“I was tired of our team leaving him out to dry,” Trotz said.
The change jumpstarted the Capitals. The team went on to score five unanswered goals, easing the three-goal deficit left by Holtby and earning a victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Grubauer was perfect in relief, making a key save right before TJ Oshie scored to narrow the gap to one.
On Sunday night, Holtby once again allowed goals on back-to-back shots as the Rangers took 3-1 lead into the first intermission. Nevertheless, Holtby was back out to start the second period. This time, however, Trotz did place blame on Holtby.
“I thought Holts had a bit of a shaky first,” Trotz told reporters. “I said to him, you’re a little close to being yanked. What I loved about it was, I let him stay in there. What I think great goalies do, they find ways to get their game back and he did and I thought he was really solid after the first.”
After the first period, the Capitals scored six unanswered goals while Holtby stopped all 21 shots he faced in the remainder of the game.
“I have a lot of faith in him,” Trotz said. “When he is not on, I probably let him go a little longer. He seems to sort things out. I allow him to sort that out. I said it’s up from here in the second period and he knew the leash was going to be a little shorter. He just pulled it together and I thought he was strong.”
The Capitals have supreme — and sometimes too much — confidence in Holtby. Paradoxically, Friday remains the only time the Capitals have pulled Holtby, despite Trotz and Holtby acknowledging he was not culpable for the goals.
“Last game I felt like I couldn’t really do anything on the three goals,” Holtby said Sunday. “Tonight, that third one especially was one I would like to have back. The first and second ones too I was just a step behind. You put it out of your mind and just fight everything off from there on out.
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