Turn on any major sports network that covers hockey (there’s only one of them in the US) or turn on a different network that likes to cover the NHL on weekends (but only up to 1035 pm EST on a Saturday) and you will see that Braden Holtby is considered to be in a slump right now. Sure this could seem like a bad thing, as the Capitals overall play hasn’t been its best in the past few weeks, but I’ll give you a few reasons why it doesn’t matter and the Capitals will be ok.
1. Stats. Some people love them, analyze them, and make things work out of them. A certain sport made a movie about it. I was unavailable during filming, so they cast Brad Pitt. From the 2014/15 season Holtby went through a slump every single season with the exception of last season.
- 2012/13 regular season from February to March he went on a 7 win 6 loss hiatus and the Capitals ended up in first place in the Division.
- 2013/14 regular season from November to January he went on a 5 win 8 loss, two OTL stretch; Caps did not make the playoffs.
- Finally, in the 2014/15 regular season in February and March he had a stretch of 7 wins and 8 losses; Caps ended up second in the Division.
I gathered these stats from Hockey Reference to show that three out of the last six seasons he’s had a mid-season slump, and he and the Capitals turn out just fine. The ‘weekend warrior’ hockey network whose analyst might be best known for throwing a shoe at a fan will wax endlessly about what he needs to do, or how he should train. In my opinion mute your TV before the period and during intermissions, and you’ll save yourself a headache.
Save Percentage (yes, this is also a stat!) Remember those three bullet points above? It wasn’t the most flattering of times, but in that same range of wins and losses, our CCM clad net minder allowed 51 shots. What does that mean you ask? Well that’s a lot of shots, and equals out to a 95.3 save percentage. I don’t care what I am doing, if I’m taking a test and get a 95.3, I’d kiss the professor on the lips and call it a day.
2. Other Goalies: In my era of Caps watching (19 years or so) I’ve seen nine solid goalies come and go. Some at the start of their careers, others at the end. In no particular order let’s take a trip down memory lane with: Halak, Nuevirth, Peters, Huet, Kolzig, Johanson, Varlamov, Vokoun, and Theodore. I’d put a lot of this blame of lost talent on an executive who recently departed for Sin City. Now MacLellan is up to bat (no pun intended from earlier baseball reference.). If you had Bernie Parent in net (google him kids, he was really good!) it wouldn’t matter what five players you had on the ice. It really wouldn’t; he was really good.
But typically you need a strong net minder and five guys on the ice are constantly helping the goalie. This is where the root of the problem lies. The Capitals have a young team sprinkled with vets. Sometimes the passing is off, the road trips would appear the Caps took an overnight Greyhound to their destination, or they just look flat all game. Once you have all five guys, each shift skating their butts off you don’t end up with 44 SOG (six games ago) or 39 and 37 SOG fourteenth and fifteenth game ago respectively.
3. Conclusion. Don’t worry about what the talking heads say, I wouldn’t worry too much about what stats say. Holtby will be fine, the Capitals will be fine, and the playoffs will start in a little over a month and every team and player will be put on a level playing field. This is where it counts, where Holtby shines, and where this year the Caps will need to also.