Washington Capitals rookie goaltender Braden Holtby did everything right for 60 minutes in his NHL playoff debut. He played outstanding in the game’s first five minutes when the Boston Bruins were all over the Caps and he was the team’s best penalty killer during a six minute stretch of B’s power play time that started late in the opening frame and carried into period two. He stopped all 29 shots he faced in regulation and his puck moving ability helped his defense out all night.
Unfortunately for #70, overtime was not kind to him and Chris Kelly scored the game winning goal, and only tally for either club in this one, for the Bruins just 1:18 into the extra frame. It was a shot Holtby will likley want back, although it seemed that an out of position Dennis Wideman may have altered the shot’s trajectory with his stick. However, if not for Holtby this game isn’t tied going into the final frame.
There are lots of players to finger for the lack of scoring, but you have to start at the top. Alexander Ovechkin had seven hits, but when the Gr8 only gets one shot on net, the Capitals are simply not going to win very often. Ovechkin has to be better at getting pucks to the net. Shortly before Kelly scored the winner, Ovie had a chance coming down the left wing but instead of powerfully going to the cage and perhaps jamming one home he tried a fancy, through the legs type of move that led to a turnover. You are not going to win in the post season trying Harlem Globetrotters style plays and the Gr8 needs to realize that or this series will end quick, like many have predicted.
On the positive side of things, the Caps penalty killing was very good (Boston was 0 for 4) and the third period might be something Washington can build off of. The Capitals dominated that frame, had some traffic in front of Tim Thomas (17 saves), but didn’t have the hands around the cage to put a rebound by him. It was a super 20 minutes and the Caps did a lot of nice things.
At the end of the night, though, the Capitals needed more of the way they played in period three. Instead, they took some bad penalties, most notably Jay Beagle’s unnecessary four minute high sticking penalty (#83 hit David Krejci in the face), and when that happens your skill players have to sit while the grinders are forced to kill off the infraction. That leads to a lack of flow and Boston carried the play in period two as a result.
Overall Holtby did what his club asked him to do but the Capitals wasted a great goaltending effort. It was a performance in net that the Caps needed to capitalize on and they failed. Bottom line, when you get an effort like that in the cage, a team needs to find a way to steal a win. It will be interesting to see if #70 builds off of this or if he has a let down after such a fine outing.
So now Washington has the task of trying to win game two on Saturday in Beantown at 3pm (NBC). It isn’t a must win game, but a 2-0 hole against the defending champions would be difficult to climb out of, that is for sure. Ovechkin and company need to bring it on Saturday, employing the things that they did correctly in period three of game one, because if they don’t, and play more like the middle frame, this series will end rather quickly.
Notes: Joel Ward was a presence in his limited time (9:21) and he actually had two shots on goal. #42 was a force on the boards and if he continues to play that way he’ll see more ice time…another place to put blame rests with the Caps power play. It managed just two shots in four minutes of advantage time. Washington had trouble getting in the zone and setting up. If they can get some goals on the power play then they have a good chance of winning the games and the series. The way it performed tonight, it is hard to expect that, though…the Caps won 32 of 65 draws (49%).