Perhaps Braden's Holtby "coming out" party has come as a surprise to those not familiar with the Washington Capitals, but for those who are -- including the Caps themselves -- this is nothing new.
“We always knew he had it," Karl Alzner said earlier this week. "We’re not surprised at all. I’ve seen it in practice, I’ve seen it in the American League, I’ve seen it in the Juniors. He’s just the type of goalie that can go in there and be calm and make the play."
If there is anyone out there who still doubts that Holtby can be "The Man" in Washington, then they obviously have not been paying close enough attention. Holtby stole Thursday's Game 4 2-1 victory with a career-high 44 saves (the second-most all time by a rookie goaltender in a non-overtime playoff win), stymying the already-frustrated Bruins and tying the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series at 2-2.
“My type of fun is intensity, is big games, big moments,” Holtby said. “I might not show it on my face, but that’s the way I’ve always been. I’ve always had the most fun when I’m battling and competing.”
Holtby may have been having fun, but the Verizon Center faithful was holding its collective breath and for good reason; Boston peppered Holtby early and often as it jumped out to a 24-5 shot advantage midway through the second period. Minus one Rich Peverly shot that squeaked through his pads in the first period, however, Holtby was perfect, cool, calm and collected, which rubbed off on his teammates and the fans.
"He just makes it very calm for the rest of us," Brooks Laich said. "If we give up a shot, we know [Holtby] is going to cover it, and if he does leave a rebound - which I didn't see many tonight - our guys are going to clear it. When you have a goaltender that is on top of his game, it really, really settles your team down. He was a leader for us tonight."
Holtby's 1.60 GAA is only bested by the Vancouver Canucks' Cory Schneider and St. Louis Blues' Brian Elliot, while Schneider's .969 SV% is the only one higher than Holtby's .953. Both numbers, however, are higher than Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, the reigning Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophies winner, New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, an MVP candidate, and New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, one of the best of all-time.
First impressions last, and based on Holtby's national unveiling, so will he.
Adam Vingan is co-founder and editor of Kings Of Leonsis, a Caps-centric blog, and is the Capitals Editor for SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter @Adam_KOL and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.