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Braden Holtby's playoff stats aren't very Holtby-like

Braden Holtby's playoff stats aren't very Holtby-like

Through the Caps’ first four postseason games, Braden Holtby’s numbers haven’t been very Braden Holtby-like.

In fact, this year’s William M. Jennings Trophy winner ranks 15th in both save percentage (.907) and goals against average (3.02) among goalies who have appeared in at least three games. He's allowed 2, 4, 4 and 4 goals, respectively, in a Washington-Toronto series that's knotted 2-2.

For comparison’s sake, Holtby entered the playoffs with a .938 save percentage—the best postseason percentage in league history.

Asked to assess his starting goalie’s play on Thursday, Trotz said he's not concerned and pointed to the number of “strange” bounces that Holtby's seen as the primary reason his play may not appear up to its usual stratospheric standards.

“It’s hard to gauge it because they’ve had a lot of strange stuff,” Trotz said. “During the year, goalies do everything on predictability. And there’s a lot of things that aren’t very predictable right now. And that, at times, makes Braden look like he’s not there. But it’s bouncing off four different guys.”

RELATED: Will Schmidt's play keep him in the lineup?

Trotz added: “He’s playing fine. But it’s not very predictable right now because there’s stuff that is bouncing all over. It’s a pinball machine out there a little bit.”

Trotz’s point is a legitimate one.

In just the two games in Toronto, one puck hit Nate Schmidt in the visor and went to Auston Matthews. Then there were the pucks that went in off of the skates of Zach Hyman and Dmitry Orlov. Another went off of Brooks Orpik’s backside. The Leafs have also scored three times on the power play in the series.

“They wrist it from the point and he’s in position and it goes off of Brooks and [Connor] Brown in front,” Trotz said of Nazem Kadri’s Game 3 tally that went in off of Orpik. “Kadri threw the puck to the net. [Holtby] is expecting it to be at his chest and all of a sudden it’s changing six feet.”

It should also be noted that the Leafs have done a good job creating havoc in and around the crease and hunting rebounds. In addition, Holtby has faced more shots—150—than any other goalie in the playoffs, including the 34 he saw in Wednesday’s pivotal 5-4 win at Air Canada Centre.

The victory evened the series and earned the Caps the day off from skating on Thursday. But that didn’t stop Holtby from getting on the ice around 10 a.m. for some fine tuning with goalie coach Mitch Korn.  

“He’s a guy that wants to work and do stuff,” Trotz said, asked about Holtby hopping on for some extra work. “He’s one of those that a body in motion stays in motion, you know?”

Holtby's dogged work ethic has always separated him from his peers. But it's not the biggest reason Trotz remains confident Holtby will manage to push through this challenging stretch. That would be Holtby's mental toughness.

“Those are things that things that are just happening and you got to deal with that mentally,” Trotz said of the bad bounces. “And he is; he’s a tough goaltender. One thing I know about Braden is that he’s got some good Saskatchewan blood in him. He’s hardnosed and he fights through that. I’m not worried about him at all.”

Holtby did not speak to reporters since it was not an official practice.

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Braden Holtby — the skater — is a sight to behold

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CSNMA

Braden Holtby — the skater — is a sight to behold

Braden Holtby is an elusive guy.

The 2015-16 Vezina Trophy winner might be large in stature, but keeps to himself. When you do see him, he's typically covered in layers of goalie pads or briefly chatting with the media following a game.

So imagine the surprise to see Holtby take the ice at Kettler IcePlex well before training camp begins with zero goalie pads on.

That's what took place on Monday morning. As several players hit the ice for some unofficial workout sessions, there was the 6-2 Saskatchewan native strolling onto the ice, with a regular stick, regular skates, regular gloves and Andre Burakovsky's helmet.

RELATED: 2017-18 CAPITALS SEASON PREVIEW SERIES

Frankly, it was a bit odd to see Holtby skate up and down the ice.

Maybe it's because we're used to seeing him in the crouch position. or maybe it's because we actually see his entire figure, not just a pile of leather pads.

But even goalies need to work on non-goalie skills. The more familiar you are with position players, the better you will be to stop them from scoring.

But man, seeing Holtby skate like a forward sure does take some time to get used to. 

RELATED: RANKING THE CAPITALS' MOST IMPORTANT PLAYERS

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The 25 most important players for the Caps: No. 20 Taylor Chorney

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The 25 most important players for the Caps: No. 20 Taylor Chorney

Every player on an NHL team plays a role.

Some play bigger roles than others.

In the coming weeks, Tarik El-Bashir and JJ Regan will rank the 25 most important players in the Caps’ organization, from least to most important, weighing factors such as past production, future potential and intangibles. 

Today’s player: No. 20 Taylor Chorney.

RELATED: 2017-18 CAPITALS SEASON PREVIEW SERIES

One of the more interesting storylines during training camp is going to be the battle along the blue line and where everyone, particularly a veteran like Chorney, fits into the plan as the Caps skew a bit younger.

The top pair is easy to figure out; it’ll be Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen.

After that, it gets a little more interesting.

John Carlson will be on the second pair, perhaps with Aaron Ness.

If that's how things shake out, it would make sense to have Brooks Orpik anchor the third pair, especially if the No. 6 spot goes to a rookie since they'd surely benefit from the steady hand of a soon-to-be 37-year-old.

But will that spot go to a youngster like Christian Djoos, Madison Bowey or someone else? 

Or will it go to Chorney, a 30-year-old who's appeared in 141 NHL games spread over eight seasons for four clubs?

The Caps anticipate that Djoos and Bowey are closer to being NHL-ready than their other defenseman prospects.

Djoos lit up the AHL last season to the tune of 58 points in 66 games and the team needs to replace some offense. Bowey, meanwhile, has the look of a promising two-way defenseman.

But here’s the drawback—and where Chorney, in my opinion, fits into the equation.

Neither Djoos nor Bowey have done it yet. And until they do, no one can be 100-percent sure they’re completely ready to handle the everyday duties that the NHL demands. 

Chorney, to that end, has a significant advantage in experience, at a position where it matters a lot. He appeared in 18 games last season and a career-high 55 games the year before, also with the Caps. 

The bottom line: I suspect Chorney, who is entering the final year of his contract, will open camp penciled in as the team’s No. 6/7.

I also expect that he'll play a decent amount this season, maybe more than last year but perhaps less than 2015-16. I could even see him in the opening night lineup. Eventually, though, the Caps will want to see Djoos, Bowey or another youngster squeeze their way past Chorney and into the lineup full-time.        

Check out the full list of the Caps most important players as it comes out here and check out previous player profiles below.

— No. 25 Aaron Ness
— No. 24 Chandler Stephenson
— No. 23 Riley Barber
— No. 22 Pheonix Copley
No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly