Caps Coach Barry Trotz acknowledged that Braden Holtby wasn’t “as sharp as he can be” in Saturday’s 6-2 loss to the Penguins.
Trotz also said he hasn’t given any thought to his Game 3 starter.
“Way too early to talk about that,” Trotz said, asked if he planned to return to Holtby on Monday night. “I haven’t really thought about it at all.”
Holtby allowed three goals on nine second period shots in Game 2 and was pulled at the intermission. Saturday's performance followed a Game 1 effort in which he allowed three goals on 21 shots and a first round series that saw him surrender 14 goals in the first four games.
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Philipp Grubauer entered Saturday’s game at the start of the third period and promptly allowed two goals on the first four shots he faced.
“I thought we just had to chance the mojo in that situation,” Trotz said of pulling Holtby. “He’ll tell you he could be better…and he will be.”
Pressed on what he thought of Holtby’s night, Trotz added: “I thought some of the goals, he wasn’t as sharp as he can be for us. He’s a game-changer for us. And when he didn’t change the game, I just looked to change the mojo a little bit, that’s all.”
“Braden is our backbone and he has been all year,”Trotz continued. “We got to find some goals for him, too. We can’t just put it on Braden Holtby. We got to find some goals in our room right now, and we haven’t found enough.”
Holtby said he didn’t like the Penguins’ third goal, scored by Jake Guentzel, who finished a 2-on-1, sniping a shot over his left pad and under his glove.
“The playoffs are made of big moments and on that third goal, that’s a big moment,” Holtby said. “That’s where your goalie needs to come up with a save and I just didn’t. Obviously, I was frustrated that I didn’t do that.”
Through eight playoff games, Holtby has a .911 save percentage—13th out of the 14 goalies who’ve played at least 5 postseason games. Holtby entered the playoffs with the best postseason save percentage in league history at .938.
So, yeah, it’s fair to say that none of this was expected...getting pulled as the Caps fight for their postseason lives or being asked by a reporter whether he thinks he'll be in net for the next game.
“I expect to start every game until I’m told otherwise,” an exasperated Holtby said.
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