If you want to call Braden Holtby‘s 2018-19 season a bounce-back, I wouldn’t blame you, but I think that might even undersell it a bit. Holtby rules.
|1795||shots faced, all strengths|
|160||goals allowed, all strengths|
|0.917||5-on-5 expected save percentage|
|0.923||5-on-5 save percentage|
About this visualization: This series of charts made by Micah Blake McCurdy of hockeyviz.com shows various metrics for the player over the course of the season. A short description of each chart:
Braden Holtby’s 2018-19 regular season a bounceback in the sense that he did better last season, but it’s an undersell. There are a bunch of different ways to measure how hard a goalie’s workload is, and nearly all of them say his job got harder this time around.
Here’s two HockeyViz heatmaps of opponent shot locations against Holtby. Left is 2017-18, right is 2018-19, blue means fewer shots from that spot, red means more shots.
After we made a whole bunch of noise about Washington’s team defense taking a major step back in their championship season, it got even worse this season. We’ll talk more about the whys of that when we hit the N part of the alphabet, but for now let’s just stipulate that Holtby’s job is hard.
More on that point: here are various opponent rates at five-on-five against Holtby each season.
|Season||Expected Goals||High-Danger Shots||Rush Attempts|
Everything got worse. For context, this season Holtby faced the second highest rate of rush attempts (behind only Matt Murray), the second highest rate of high-danger shots (behind only John Gibson), and the third highest rate of expected goals (behind goalies for Anaheim, Ottawa, and Detroit — so that’s not great company to be in).
Holtby put up a 0.923 save percentage, way above what one could reasonably expect while backstopping a team that had as many defensive problems as Washington had this season. That 0.923 is still way below his previously (eerily consistent) 0.930 average, but mentally we have to allocate some slack to the player once we consider the team in front of him. Call it the Lundqvist Appreciation Coefficient.
Let’s take a quick breather here: everything above was at five-on-five. During the penalty kill, I think the most accurate way to describe Holtby was bad. While a man down Holtby got smoked with a 0.832 save percentage, allowing 37 goals — third most in the league — despite playing behind a penalty kill unit that really wasn’t as bad as some folks thought, but who had to kill far too many penalties this season.
Braden Holtby will turn 30 during the 2019-20 preseason as he enters the final year of a deal that pays him $6.1 million annually. That’s a precarious situation for the player and team even before you consider the apparent grooming that’s happening for Ilya Samsonov. Holtby has had one bad season (maybe, if that) in his entire career, but he’s also entering the part of his career where a drop-off is more likely, but he’s also a Vezina winner who hand-delivered his team to their first Cup Final in twenty years with two inhuman back-to-back shutouts against Tampa starting exactly one year ago. Figuring what’s right in term and salary will be some complicated math, where it’s in Washington or somewhere else, but I’ll say this: However much it is and for however long it is and wherever it is, Holtby will deserve it and more.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) October 23, 2018
— Bob Crook (@CrookBob) October 25, 2018
How do you personally account for the team in front of a goalie when evaluating the player himself? Do you think the Caps can make a new deal with Holtby work, and do you think they should? How amazing were those back-to-back shutouts?
Read more: Japers Rink
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