NEW YORK - The Capitals will face their fair share of questions now that their season has come to an abrupt end, but one of the most convincing answers came with the emergence of rookie goaltender Braden Holtby.
The 22-year-old native of Lloydminster, Saskatchewan proved to be unflappable during his first foray into the Stanley Cup playoffs, ranking fourth among playoff starters in goals-against 1.95 and save percentage .935.
Holts was tremendous, Capitals center Brooks Laich said. Weve said it all along. He got caught up in a numbers game this year. Youre told when youre a kid that if youre a player theyll find you and if you keep working youll get your chance and I think weve got a great one there in Holts.
Holtby said his greatest regret is not seeing the Capitals achieve what he believes they were capable of accomplishing.
Obviously, its a disappointing, he said. We really did believe in here we had the team to do it all. When you look at it we gave ourselves a great chance. Its a tough loss, but what we can take out of it is that New York was a very good team and we didnt leave anything on the table.
Holtbys emergence was as unlikely as it was impressive. He was recalled by the Caps on March 17 as an injury replacement for Tomas Vokoun, then was named the starter when Michal Neuvirth was injured in the next-to-last game of the season.
You gotta give him credit, Capitals coach Dale Hunter said. He played under extreme pressure. He had to go up against Tim Thomas, a Stanley Cup winner and Henrik Lundqvist, who could be MVP of the league. He battled them tooth and nail. Im proud of him.
And he did so while becoming a father two days before Game 7 of the conference semifinals.
It certainly helped his cause and put his name on the map, Mike Knuble said of Holtbys playoff run. Were all very proud of the way he played. Hes juggling a lot coming in here. To be able to give us a chance to win every night, he did that and you cant say enough about a goalie who does that.