Photo: Maddie Meyer
Tuesday, Braden Holtby joined Sportsnet’s Hockey Central to talk about the Caps’ success this season and breakout star Evgeny Kuznetsov. In a Players’ Tribune article released Monday, Kuznetsov exclaimed his love for the daytime TV gameshow, Family Feud. “I just want to play hockey, come home, watch the Family Feud, go to bed,” wrote Kuznetsov.
According to Holtby, it’s not just Kuznetsov who watches the show. It’s the whole team.
“That’s a hit in the locker room,” Holtby said on Hockey Central. “Especially before games or whatnot. [Family Feud] kind of brings the team together. It’s kind of our thing to do.”
Holtby was asked how this all began.
“I don’t know who started it,” Holtby said. “In the weight room at Verizon Center, it seemed to always be on at that time. The crowd got bigger. I’m only a part of it when I don’t play. I don’t know, you get those funny routines and it loosens guys up before the game. It’s a good thing to have.”
The rest of Holtby’s conversation follows.
On the one thing Mitch Korn has worked with him the most on.
Mitch has found a way to kind of tighten my game up, create less holes using more athleticism to get to position quicker — instead of using it explosively and such. That’s the one thing we’ve worked on the most, definitely.
Holtby on how Evgeny Kuznetsov has fit in on the team.
Kuzy has been phenomenal for us. He’s definitely won everyone over whether he had to or not. He’s gone above and beyond in terms with his leadership, work ethic, attention to detail on all zones of the ice. He’s wanted to get better every single day. A lot of that piece, it’s exactly who he is. He’s always fun to be around, but when it comes to game time, he’s one of the most intense competitors on our team. That’s what really makes great players: their ability to turn it on like that and to make sure their focused on their job. He’s getting better and better. A lot of his great plays go unnoticed defensively. Neutral zone wise, he’s extremely smart. If you look at our one two punch at center with Kuzy and Backy, it’s pretty phenomenal. We’re pretty fortunate to have both of those guys.
Holtby on the steps the team has taken for success since Barry Trotz was brought in.
We gained a lot last year. We tried to create a winning atmosphere and a different culture around our team. We put in a lot of hard hours last year to start that process. This year, our main thing was just not to be complacent where we’re at and just really focus on the same ideas preparing for playoff hockey. The team dynamic we have right now is we’re very focused on each game. We’re on a seven-game winning streak the other day and no one on our in our locker room knew. We’re just living in the moment every day and that’s a good formula.
Holtby on Trotz’s system and if it was a bit of a battle with some of the veteran Capitals.
In order to play that way no matter who you are, you need constant reminders and pressure from the coaches because it’s a hard way to play. Those guys they’ve done it as well as anyone. I think we’re to a point at the organization we knew we had to make a change and make it harder on ourselves in order to accomplish more. Especially if you look at a guy like Nick, always doing the right things off the ice, on the ice, in the locker room. Ovi as well. He’s still finding ways to score in the system.
Holtby on the ridiculous amount of tape at the end of his stick.
A whole roll but cut in half. I know it’s not the nicest looking thing, but if something works you kind of stick with it. I guess I saw a few guys do it when I was young and I tried it and got used to it. It’s easier to poke check and grab your stick up off the ice and all of that stuff. So I just got used to it.
On his pregame routines, including his visualizations.
When I’m on the bench there I’m just visualizing a few different ways to see myself as if I’m on the bench. Seeing ways I want to be. Seeing angles at different rinks. Different ice surfaces have different shapes and whatnot. I do eye exercises to just get the eye muscles warmed-up so they’re sharp when the game comes around.
Finally, Holtby on why his mask is falling off so much this season.
I’ve been having some trouble with my mask, with the straps exploding when the puck hits me in the face.
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