WASHINGTON – It was a wild ride that had the Washington area on the edge of its seat for the last month.
And while the Capitals lost in the second round of the NHL playoffs for the second straight year, the team inspired a growing fan base with their effort and heart against the top-seeded Rangers.
Despite the loss in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden, rookie goalie Braden Holtby’s performance turned heads. Holtby tells WTOP he feels the team can be proud of their efforts.
“It was a fun playoff,” he says. “We came up just short. It obviously wasn’t the result we wanted, but it definitely wasn’t an effort we have any regrets about.”
Holtby started his season with the Hershey Bears before before returning to Washington for the last game of the 2012 regular season. He stopped more pucks than any goalie this postseason, an experience he says very few players get.
“I knew it was an opportunity that I had to make the most of,” he says. “We had a job to do, to win games, and all I could really focus on was really giving our team a chance to win. We did that as a defensive core.”
During the playoffs, there was plenty of frustration for Caps fans: nail-biting, anxiety-riddled games that often came down to one goal. But Holtby says the frustration never got to him.
“I have the one job at my end of the ice and then I have all the confidence in the world in the guys at the other end to do theirs.”
Holtby was solid in the net throughout the two series, keeping games so close that he almost made it look easy. He says the difference between the NHL and the American Hockey League, where he played for the Bears, is not just about skill levels.
“The main difference is just your mental game, is not letting the big stage really affect anything,” he says. “[It’s] just going about the games the same way you have for years and doing the same things that got you here.”
In the handshake line at the end of Saturday night’s game, Holtby shook hands with Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. He congratulated Holtby on a great series and said he’ll be seeing Holtby a lot next year.
Holtby’s goal for next season is to win games and be one of the best goalies in the NHL. He intends to stay in the best shape he can during the off-season.
“We have a focus next year and that’s to win games,” he says. “If I can be part of it where I help the team [and] give us the best chance we have to win games, then I’ll be glad to fill in that role.”